Now that Aether Revolt is out on Magic Online, it’s time to move back to my coverage of reprints sets with a Modern Masters 2017 update, as well as covering the changes in the Treasure Chests with Aether Revolt’s release. While I planned for this to mostly be MM17 stuff with the Treasure Chests as an afterthought, it’s actually reversed: I didn’t have many MM17 changes (mostly since I haven’t found time to actually test things), while the Treasure Chests changed more than I thought. As such, I’ll start with the Treasure Chest information, and then tack on the bit of MM17 stuff at the end.
While everyone certainly would agree that the Conspiracy/Commander update in November (though the link to the Wizards article there appears to be dead, use this instead for reference) was great for the value of the chests (even if there were disappointments in the new cards added), I’m not sure I can say that for this update. To start, 87 cards were added to the curated list (mostly from Theros block, Tarkir block, and surrounding core sets), adding almost a thousand cards to the pool alone. Second, 30 cards had their frequency changed, and while the total is mostly even (a net of 14 cards added), the details are more interesting. Third, 9 cards were removed (removing 84 copies from the pool), but unlike the mass removal of chaff in the last update, this was replacing original versions of some cards with their Aether Revolt Masterpiece versions. Fourth, the experiment of putting boosters in the Treasure Chests is over (mostly due to flooding the market with boosters), and they have been replaced with Play Points in the original ratios. Finally, the ratios of the chests themselves were changed. As such, I have a lot to cover, and I’ll go through all the points individually, then sum up what it means for the chests as a whole.
Recent Set Chest Additions:
When looking at the cards from the newer sets, it seems very random what was included. On one hand, you have some of the important cards like Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy and Kolaghan’s Command, but they’re counter-balanced by cards like Soulfire Grand Master and Chandra, Fire of Kaladesh. The frequencies also seem to be chosen at random—the double-faced planeswalkers from Magic Origins are split between 12 and 6 evenly with the more-expensive ones at the lower quantity, but of the two curated Dragons of Tarkir Commands, Kolaghan’s Command is at 12 while Atarka’s Command is at 6. Even with the duds, the average value of the recent cards is still 5.05 tickets, 0.7 more than the average curated card at the time of my previous article.
Other Chest Additions:
The non-recent cards are a mix of the things I like from the Treasure Chests. The thing most people care about is that many good cards that were missed previously: Pendelhaven is probably the most obvious curated omission to this point (since it was only available on the timeshifted sheet and is an important Constructed card), Serrated Arrows is always nice to reprint, and did you know From the Ashes is over 35 tickets? Personally, I always like to see new cards and there are four new promos: three from Duel Decks: Elspeth vs Kiora (Decree of Justice; Elspeth, Sun’s Champion; and Icatian Javelineers, though the latter was actually a WPN promo beforehand) as well as a new Gorilla Shaman promo (probably new art, as while there were two arts in Alliances, they both made it on MTGO through ME2 and the Coldsnap Theme Deck printing). However, there was one strange decision, and that was putting some of the Conspiracy/Commander cards into the curated list. While I get that this somewhat makes up for the massive cut in the distribution of those cards from the designated slot, and I don’t disagree with getting more Recruiter of the Guards and Leovold, Emissary of Trests, they also included the five four-color Legends, which means an average Atraxa, Praetors’ Voice and four cards that average under half a ticket each. That still didn’t hurt the distribution that much, as the average of the other added cards is 5.35 tickets, making the average of all the added cards 5.14 tickets each, much higher than I expected.
This is another group of changes that surprised me. When first looking at the list, what stands out are all ten painlands going from 12 to 20 (including the enemy-color ones that are almost worthless at this point), while cards like Daze, Exclude, and Ancestral Vision have their quantity slashed. However, there are some gems that are easy to overlook: Cavern of Souls and Blood Moon both jumped from 12 to 20, while Horizon Canopy went from 6 to 14 (a strange number, but even if it’s supposed to be 12 it’s still good). These changes add 130.9 tickets to the pool, but that’s slightly misleading since the total number of cards increased slightly, and it’s basically a wash (average value of a card in this section increased from 8.89 to 8.91). Even better, the overall frequency changes make sense for the more-casual player: the new cards that aren’t worth insane amounts are flashy (Planeswalkers, spells like Day’s Undoing), while these changes bias the pool slightly towards lands (which all new players want/need). This is good since the more-casual player is more likely to open their chests (especially now that bots are discouraged from opening them due to the reintroduction of Play Points).
Play Points/Other Chest Changes:
The reversion to Play Points instead of boosters is the most-interesting change, as there are a lot of moving parts (the multiple Play Point frequencies, as well as the changes for each slot). If you get Play Points in a Treasure Chest, the average number you will get is 24.8, and as such the value the Play Points add to the average chest is 0.74 tickets (assuming 10 Play Points equals 1 ticket). Conversely, if we used the old rates for the booster and started where MTGOTraders has started the price for an Aether Revolt booster (3.75 tickets), that slot would add 0.75 tickets to the average value of a chest, and that would drop quickly (with the current price of Kaladesh boosters at 2.46 tickets, the slot adds 0.49 tickets).
However, that isn’t the whole story, since the greater odds of getting Play Points is taken from other slots, mostly the Cons/C16 slot. That actually isn’t nearly as bad as it looks though, since the average card in the Cons/C16 slot is now only 0.89 tickets, which means the slot adds 0.86 tickets to the old chests but only 0.11 tickets to the new chests (and a third of that difference is already made up by the Play Points change). Another change that looks very bad is the decreased chance of a Modern rare/mythic in slot 2, but that is mostly made up by the increased chance in slots 1 and 3, so much so that there are only 0.02 fewer Modern rares per chest (one fewer Modern rare per 50 chests). Make no mistake, these changes are certainly strictly worse overall (each chest has 0.13 more Standard commons/uncommons, trash until WotC finally implements the crafting system they’ve been teasing), but most of the value comes from the curated cards, and the odds of those did not change.
After going through the numbers, I’m shocked at how good they look, especially compared to my first impressions. I unfortunately don’t have the raw numbers like I did for the value of a curated card (the data I started from is even more out of date, and frequency changes are difficult), but the numbers look very good, even before considering the Masterpieces (a low estimated value for them is 8.43 tickets per card, and 480 are being added to the pool). Yes, adding more Standard commons/uncommons to the chests is always bad (though Fatal Push is not irrelevant, even if it’ll only show up once every 585 chests assuming the distribution is flat), but I feel like it’s more than made up for by the improved curated list. Overall things are very good. Now on to the short Modern Masters 2015 update!
Going through these buckets, I will be looking for Modern-legal valuable reprints that fit the timeline for MM17 (Magic 2014 or earlier) and putting them into one of three buckets: primarily Modern, primarily Eternal (Legacy and/or Vintage), or primarily casual. Then I’ll go through the set as a whole. Note: the italicized card names have set-specific mechanics, making them harder to print in a Modern Masters set (as they need support).
Modern Staples: (Past in Flames), Caves of Koilos, Karplusan Forest, Master of Etherium, Scavenging Ooze
Eternal Staples: Forbidden Orchard
Casual Staples: Kalonian Hydra, Chromatic Lantern, Lurking Predators, Solemn Simulacrum
There was more here than I thought—the main point here is Past in Flames getting a surprise reprint, but Scavenging Ooze is one I missed while initially looking at the decks (and I didn’t realize just how important it was to Jund in Modern), and the painlands are still relevant despite being reprinted into the ground. While I don’t think the Past in Flames reprint is bad enough to remove it from MM17 (particularly because the red pickings are so slim unless you want to reprint Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker for a third time straight), Scavenging Ooze is certainly something that should show up in the set even with this reprint.
Aether Revolt Masterpieces:
Modern Staples: Arcbound Ravager, Chalice of the Void, Engineered Explosives, Ensnaring Bridge, Oblivion Stone, Pithing Needle, Sundering Titan, Wurmcoil Engine
Eternal Staples: Defense Grid, Trinisphere
Casual Staples: Duplicant, Extraplanar Lens, Platinum Angel, Staff of Domination, Sword of Body and Mind, Sword of War and Peace, Vedalken Shackles
As I said in the previous article, the new normal of Masterpieces hasn’t really shown itself in the Masters sets yet, but what little we know from Eternal Masters says they don’t really affect the distribution (Wasteland was in Oath of the Gatewatch and EMA, Chrome Mox and Mana Crypt were in EMA and Kaladesh, and now Duplicant is in EMA and Aether Revolt). Still, the main reason is that most of that top line needs to be reprinted, and it all won’t be—my set has Defense Grid at rare and Oblivion Stone at mythic, and while that’s certainly not what people want (Ensnaring Bridge has skyrocketed in price recently, especially online), Wizards needs to keep cards back to sell the next Masters set (or the next normal set—this is why fetchlands probably will be saved for a Standard set, though the recent comments about Thoughtseize and Mutavault may put a damper on that).
That’s all for now—I’m going to stand pat on my previous prediction for Modern Masters 2017 unless we see something that changes my view drastically (say, Snapcaster Mage being spoiled at mythic, Tarmogoyf being confirmed out, or a rare dual land cycle). Next time you see me should be the Flashback Favorites primer for Invasion block—I’ve done a decent amount of work for it already, and I might have to even make it a two-parter.
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