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By: Cheater Hater, Vincent Borchardt
Mar 22 2018 12:00pm
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It’s always weird doing my Reprint Set Report Card article after the set’s already been out for a week. While it does mean my “current” prices can use actual Masters 25 prices, it means the prices have already cratered and that the shine of the set has worn off (even before you consider it being overshadowed almost immediately by the Dominaria leak). And to be fair, it’s not like this set had a lot of shine left to give in the first place. I’m a lot more forgiving of Masters sets in general (because I realize they can’t reprint everything in one set, especially if they plan on continuing the over-saturation of Masters sets by printing two a year, but I have problems on the design side as well as the value side, which I’ll get into shortly.
 
Design Review:
Who here remembers Eternal Masters? It was WotC’s first attempt at a Masters set without a restricted card pool, and while the Limited format was good and it had interesting reprints, it had two main problems: most of the value was concentrated in two low-supply cards (Karakas and Mana Crypt) and it had too much of a focus on new cards (as opposed to the “Eternal” cards hinted at in the theme). Here in Masters 25, there are two main problems: most of the non-Jace value (which had extenuating circumstances I’ll get to in the money section) was in low-supply cards (Imperial Recruiter, Rishadan Port, enemy Filterlands just to name a few) and there was an over-focus on certain sets in terms of themes (Alpha/Beta, Onslaught block, the last three years) instead of the entire history of Magic (as the set name would suggest).
 
I know it seems weird to hate on the eleven Alpha/Beta reprints in the set, but it feels like they would felt more at home in Iconic Masters, at least in those numbers. The difficult part is that both Iconic Masters and Masters 25 have ideas that stretch the typical Masters design: Iconic Masters went bigger (so an unconditional answer like Counterspell or weenie like Savannah Lions wouldn’t fit as well), while the “good cards, few/no archetypes” design of Masters 25 pushes the power level up and removes a lot of synergistic cards from the pool. That means these designs were likely hard to balance, even before you consider the one of every set restriction (and believe me, I have way too many words on that coming next week). It still feels weird that some sets were represented so disproportionately, though admittedly I didn’t take a count on my design since I was only counting first-time printings—I probably used too many cards from Time Spiral block in my design (though I’m pretty sure I didn’t use eleven from a single set).
 
And even though I mentioned this in the Limited article, where the heck are the mechanics? Obviously I thought Morph was a good pick (since I chose it too), and Cycling makes sense too (though I didn’t pick it for some reason other than the late addition Ash Barrens, possibly because I would have been too over-centralized in Onslaught block), but where is everything else? I know one of the reasons I was attracted to Masters sets in the first place was because it let cards that would never see play together normally be in the same Limited format. Here most of the cards other than the Morphs feel like strong versions of Limited cards that exist in every set, so it feels less special. In fact, if it wasn’t for some complex individual interactions (Cloudshift plus Act of Treason, the Oblivion Ring trick being encouraged) this set really isn’t that complex compared to the average Standard set. Anyway, most of the design complaints I have will probably come out next week when I cover the “one card from every set” restriction, so let’s get to the financial part of the review:
 
Financial Review:
There’s no putting it off any longer. Let’s see what mythic rares Wizards of the Coast chose to represent 25 years of the history of Magic:
 
Akroma, Angel of Wrath:
In the abstract, Akroma is a great choice for a set celebrating the history of Magic, since it’s one of the most popular legendary creatures and this lets the From the Vault: Angels art be available in non-foil. It also has to be mythic since it’s way too good for rare (probably even in Iconic Masters), even if that does result in a dud to open.
 
Armageddon:
This is more questionable: obviously the effect itself needs to be mythic (notably it was mythic in Vintage Masters) and the reprint puts the From the Vault: Annihilation art in non-foil, but does it need to be here? It also puts an Alpha/Beta card at mythic, but there are better choices for that *cough*Demonic Tutor*cough*. A miss, but certainly not the worst one.
 
Jace, the Mind Sculptor:
Ten years from now when Jace is re-banned from Modern after the billions of matches played in Arena Modern prove it’s 5% too powerful for the format (especially combined with a certain card from the just released Return to Kamigawa) we’ll probably learn the full story about whether the Modern unban or Masters 25 reprint came first in WotC’s mind, but until then we can only speculate. The fact is that without Jace’s inflated value due to Modern, Masters 25 would have almost no value and Jace is buoying the average pack value almost single-handedly. Combine that with the conspiracies people want to believe anyway and in some ways it’s a blessing that Dominaria stole people’s attention in many ways.
 
Vendilion Clique:
This seems like a very strange choice: does anyone thing of Vendilion Clique when they think of Morningtide, or of the history of Magic? Obviously it’s not a bad card to reprint, but why here, especially since it’s not the only Morningtide card?
 
Phyrexian Obliterator:
Conversely, Phyrexian Obliterator perfectly conveys the flavor of both New Phyrexia and Scars of Mirrodin block in general, it’s a card that needs a reprint, and it’s a first time reprint to boot! Great pick, and I’m kicking myself for not putting it in my design.
 
Doomsday:
If you remember my Eternal Masters design, I predicted this for that set, calling it a Comet Storm in paper but saying it was an important reprint for MTGO. However, then why is the Masters 25 version of Doomsday under a ticket on MTGO? Part of it is desire for the Weatherlight version specifically (as Doomsday is a Vintage card) and part is the Invocation reprint, but the biggest reason is that there was a Treasure Chest-exclusive promo that’s been in Treasure Chests for more than a year, and that has depressed the market greatly (that version is under half a ticket right now). Treasure Chests are going to come up a lot with regard to the MTGO side of this set, and their existence is going to make Masters set finance very hard to do well until the price of packs is lowered (which likely won’t happen).
 
Akroma, Angel of Fury:
What is WotC’s obsession with printing both Akromas together all the time? It made more sense in From the Vault: Angels since there aren’t as many notable red angels, and it fits here since Morph lets you reprint it (though I wonder if Morph was put in specifically to reprint her) and it lets the FtV art get a non-foil printing, but do you really want 13% of your mythics to be Akromas? Granted, this was probably forced by the awful quality of red mythics (especially since the watermark issue made Jace be the only planeswalker) and I’d much rather have a Akroma than yet another Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker printing.
 
Imperial Recruiter:
Why yes, the Portal: Three Kingdoms card limited by supply (and at least partially replaced by Recruiter of the Guard dropped to a third of its previous lowest value and is still dropping—what else did you expect? This drop is even worse than Karakas and Mana Crypt since the original printing doesn’t have much nostalgic value (it’s only rare because the set was only printed in Asia) and only has value from a specific Legacy deck. WotC had to know this would happen, but the rest of the decisions in this set are based around Imperial Recruiter retaining a decent chunk of its value. Again, it’s a red mythic that isn’t embarrassing so it isn’t an awful choice, but the problem is everything else.
 
Master of the Wild Hunt:
This was always going to be one of the low-end mythics once the set hit, but again it’s a good choice: a mythic printed a single time in a core set that has reasonable playability is a nice thing to reprint, and now it’s low enough that it can go in Commander decks and other preconstructed products like Explorers of Ixalan.
 
Tree of Redemption:
A great pick, since it emphasizes the “13” theme of Innistrad, works well with fellow standout rare (Triskaidekaphobia), is a first time reprint, and is a casual—I’m sorry, I can’t keep the charade going. Tree is obviously one of the worst picks, but there are extenuating circumstances—Mark Rosewater said on his blog it was a “last minute replacement with numerous constraints,” but what were those constraints? The obvious situation is that a card was pulled from the set at the last minute after the number crunch was locked in, but what was it? Neither Tarmogoyf nor Vengevine (two much better choices for mythics) fit the crunch unless you’re removing multiple cards—though Timberpack Wolf seems very out of place, so maybe Goyf and a common were swapped for the Wolf and Tree. If just Tree replaced something there isn’t much other than Ulvenwald Hydra that feels mythic, though a possibility could be Azusa, Lost But Seeking was mythic (like I predicted in my design) but was then moved down to rare where something like Troll Ascetic (which seems unbeatable in this Limited format) was replaced with Tree—in that case the Tree itself doesn’t seem so bad. One final possibility goes into the realm of pure speculation, but that spot could have been a Dominaria card, either as a preview or as a sign the set was supposed to be released in the traditional summer slot before WotC moved to the two Masters sets a year schedule. Whenever whatever card was supposed to be (re)printed there is printed, we’ll probably find out the whole story (like with Damnation, but until then we can only guess and hate whenever a pack or case is diminished by Tree of Redemption.
 
Prossh, Skyraider of Kher:
A lot of people are hating on this choice, but I like it for a lot of reasons because it does so many things. First, it’s a first-time foil, which is always appreciated for a Commander. Next, it lets paper print a Kobolds of Kher Keep token, though I wish Kher Keep itself could have been reprinted (maybe as a downshift to uncommon?). Finally, this card was expensive on MTGO less than six months ago until it was put into Treasure Chests with the Ixalan update—though that does beg the question why it was put in the Treasure Chests when WotC knew it was going to be reprinted shortly? Surely the MTGO side of WotC knows the set schedule and wouldn’t want to tank cards right before they’re reprinted, especially when they have plenty of other choices like True-Name Nemesis (which just passed Black Lotus in the “most expensive cards on MTGO” list, though its problem is that you can’t put it in a Limited format—then again, that’s what the Treasure Chests are supposed to be best at).
 
Gisela, Blade of Goldnight:
This isn’t an awful choice in the abstract as it serves two purposes (showcase the Angel theme of Avacyn Restored, give white a gold mythic), but is it worth the slot? I feel like there are a lot of better choices, whether it’s another Commander legend, a Planeswalker, or even fellow Avacyn Restored angel Sigarda, Host of Herons.
 
Animar, Soul of Elements:
Another great choice, as it’s a first-time foil in paper, a popular Commander, and works well with cards like Whitemane Lion and all the Morphs in the set.
 
Chalice of the Void:
After my rant against Cavern of Souls’s upgrade from post-mythic rare to mythic in Modern Masters 2017, of course I’m going to be unhappy with Chalice of the Void’s upgrade, especially since it was rare in a Masters set. Furthermore, the answer to this is obvious: just swap it with Rishadan Port! Port’s price has always been based on scarcity (especially online before Treasure Chests reprinted it into oblivion) so it’s good to have fewer copies in the environment, and I suspect its price is going to crash now that it’s only at rare. Conversely Chalice is a multi-format all-star and sees enough play to back up its price.
 
Ensnaring Bridge:
Another card that needs a reprint, though it’s one of those cards that warps Limited, which is why I suspect it hasn’t been reprinted in so long (even in places that seem obvious, like Tempest Remastered). Thus, putting it in the set with all the high-powered answers (particularly maindeckable artifact ones like Pillage and Ainok Survivalist) makes sense.
 
So that’s my thoughts on each mythic, but how does the money work out?
Card Paper Mar 16 Paper Mar 17 Paper Current MTGO Mar 16 MTGO Mar 17 MTGO Current
Akroma, Angel of Wrath $8.00 $7.00 $2.10 0.6 0.6 0.3
Armageddon $5.40 $5.40 $3.00 1.1 1.2 0.2
Jace, the Mind Sculptor $86.60 $67.10 $99.70 18.9 11.1 54.2
Vendilion Clique $35.50 $29.90 $20.00 16.9 21.8 14.7
Phyrexian Obliterator $31.00 $30.50 $16.20 15.9 14.0 4.6
Doomsday $1.90 $2.80 $3.40 27.0 25.1 1.0
Imperial Recruiter $224.90 $214.90 $54.90 17.8 4.9 3.2
Akroma, Angel of Fury $6.00 $5.50 $1.80 1.1 1.1 0.3
Master of the Wild Hunt $12.90 $12.00 $4.10 3.8 1.2 0.3
Tree of Redemption $2.50 $2.60 $1.20 1.0 0.1 0.0
Prossh, Skyraider of Kher $1.00 $1.10 $1.30 3.3 5.4 0.3
Gisela, Blade of Goldnight $7.50 $5.50 $4.10 3.0 1.3 0.1
Animar, Soul of Elements $24.60 $23.90 $15.00 5.6 3.4 0.8
Ensnaring Bridge $46.90 $40.00 $33.10 48.1 44.1 22.1
Chalice of the Void $43.80 $65.00 $53.20 10.1 37.7 23.8
Total $538.50 $513.20 $313.10 174.2 173.0 125.9
Average Mythic $35.90 $34.21 $20.87 11.6 11.5 8.4
Value Added per Pack $4.49 $4.28 $2.61 1.5 1.4 1.0
Percentage of Pack 44.88% 42.77% 26.09% 20.74% 20.60% 14.99%
This actually isn’t nearly as bad as I thought on the paper side, as Jace somewhat makes up for Imperial Recruiter’s decline and the prices are expected to decline after the set has been released. Of course the problem is the variance, and that prices aren’t nearly done falling yet—when one of your ~three mythics could either be a Jace or one of the near-worthless cards it’s hard to justify the gamble. Of course the rares are what you want to be good, so let’s see how those turned out:
Card Paper Mar 16 Paper Mar 17 Paper Current MTGO Mar 16 MTGO Mar 17 MTGO Current
Thalia, Guardian of Thraben $6.60 $8.10 $10.50 1.0 1.8 0.8
Darien, King of Kjeldor $6.30 $6.50 $2.30 1.6 0.5 0.0
Luminarch Ascension $5.70 $6.20 $2.30 1.0 0.1 0.0
Rest in Peace $4.10 $7.30 $3.30 3.3 5.8 3.9
Pact of Negation $28.90 $36.50 $13.40 7.4 9.6 2.3
Living Death $2.40 $4.90 $2.50 0.9 1.3 0.0
Eidolon of the Great Revel $11.30 $12.50 $5.00 16.4 31.3 12.0
Magus of the Wheel $3.90 $3.00 $2.40 1.6 6.6 0.1
Blood Moon $48.20 $39.20 $17.90 26.8 25.8 19.6
Azusa, Lost but Seeking $34.20 $26.90 $17.60 5.0 5.7 1.4
Elvish Piper $7.50 $7.50 $3.20 0.1 0.0 0.1
Protean Hulk $6.90 $3.90 $3.30 1.6 0.6 0.1
Summoner’s Pact $12.60 $16.40 $9.00 3.1 6.5 1.6
Living Wish $4.00 $3.30 $1.20 2.1 1.1 0.1
Hanna, Ship’s Navigator $4.70 $1.70 $0.80 2.2 3.9 0.0
Eladamri's Call $8.00 $8.40 $3.50 9.1 2.1 0.2
Vindicate $14.60 $5.50 $3.00 4.8 1.0 0.0
Pernicious Deed $4.70 $4.90 $2.00 7.0 3.3 0.6
Sundering Titan $7.30 $5.00 $1.29 4.9 1.3 0.1
Strionic Resonator $2.00 $4.00 $2.30 0.0 0.0 0.0
Coalition Relic $8.00 $12.70 $5.30 5.2 1.0 0.0
Fetid Heath $29.70 $24.30 $12.60 26.7 5.0 0.8
Cascade Bluffs $25.20 $21.00 $10.00 12.8 4.5 0.7
Twilight Mire $38.20 $35.00 $13.00 25.1 8.4 0.5
Rugged Prairie $14.80 $20.90 $10.00 4.0 7.1 0.4
Flooded Grove $22.20 $19.60 $9.50 5.0 3.6 0.3
Rishadan Port $89.00 $116.90 $36.00 185.7 162.3 8.3
Mikokoro, Center of the Sea $11.00 $12.80 $4.00 7.6 2.4 0.2
Pendelhaven $13.40 $13.00 $2.80 16.2 8.2 1.6
Bulk x24 $0.30 $0.30 $0.30 0.1 0.1 0.1
Total $482.60 $495.10 $217.19 390.6 313.2 58.1
Average Rare $9.11 $9.34 $4.10 7.4 5.9 1.1
Value Added per Pack $7.97 $8.17 $3.59 6.4 5.2 1.0
Percentage of Pack 79.67% 81.74% 35.86% 92.12% 73.87% 13.70%
Again, it starts off good both in paper and on MTGO, but the majority of that is from Rishadan Port and the enemy filterlands: low-supply cards (especially on MTGO—remember Eventide was around the 3.0 changeover) that have been hit by Treasure Chests and have less demand than you would expect.
 
Overall it feels like the problem is that most of the expensive cards were expensive because of their low supply. I’m worried that might not be a solvable problem for Masters sets based on older sets because no one plays Legacy and there are just so many cards printed now. For instance, it’s almost certain that more Imperial Recruiters will have been printed in paper through Masters 25 than Portal Three Kingdoms (certainly in English), and maybe even one of the few pre-Modern cards that’s a first-time reprint (Kindle or Lull) or Darien, King of Kjeldor from the very under-printed Coldsnap more than doubled its circulation as well—it’s hard to not tank the price in that case. Of course, WotC presumably has smarter people than me with regard to market supply (at least I hope so), so hopefully they have a plan (that wasn’t torpedoed when Hasbro told them to start putting out two a year).
 
However, then I read an article by Play Design on Masters 25, and while the design stuff isn’t much new (a focus on combos rather than archetypes), one sentence stuck out like a sore thumb: “We finished up Masters 25 well over a year ago.” How? To be fair, Melissa said she was on the Set Design team (which corresponds to old-school development), but Play Design didn’t really exist yet, so presumably not much was done to the set after that time frame (and Play Design probably isn’t the right team to make value decisions for reprint sets regardless). My rule of thumb for WotC’s timeline is that sets are finalized about three months ahead of release and my charts try to inform that: two years ago is when design started and the structure of the set should be finalized around the year mark. The problem is that paradigm can’t work for reprint sets since what needs to be reprinted changes too fast. Recent developments in Masters sets had me hoping that gap had lessened, but it seems like (Death’s Shadow) in Modern Masters 2017 was a lucky accident and Iconic Masters (and (Mishra’s Bauble)) wasn’t setting a trend. Instead, most of the value in Masters 25 was “evergreen” value and WotC is running out of of those cards, especially outside of Modern (what’s left is mostly casual-focused Portal cards that will crater even harder than Imperial Recruiter, unless they break the Reserve List). The next Masters set will be an important test: the theme isn’t obvious (tribal is the most likely, but that isn’t trivial to pull off at all) and WotC is facing a pair of misses after the undeniable hit of Modern Masters 27.
 
My Design Comparison:
Obviously this wasn’t going to be great since I focus my designs on synergy rather than individual card power, so I only got 16/249 slots correct, which increases to 19/249 if you count shifts in rarity. My lower rarity hits were mostly lucky hits like Thresher Lizard and Woolly Loxodon, and I’m surprised I hit that many. My rares were actually better: I hit 12/68 (counting shifts) including many of the important cards, though that’s to be expected since many of my rares are just picks for value rather than synergy. I do wish mine was produced since I really think it’s fun to play, but we’ll see what happens the next time WotC does a Masters set with archetypes and what the theme is.
 
Conclusion:
One more quick reprint set note before I go: Signature Spellbook: Jace was revealed, and while I’m pretty sure the set won’t show up on MTGO in full (it’ll probably show up in Treasure Chests like From the Vault: Transform), the cards look cool and the set managed to hit the sweet spot between cost and value (though the randomness of the premium card seems strange for such a limited product—this is why Masterpieces in a Masters set would be an awful idea, for example).
 
Overall I think the core of Masters 25 is very interesting and I wish it wasn’t overshadowed by the lack of permanent value and the Dominaria leak. I’m also worried about the lack of set-related restrictions in the future, as the more old cards they try to reprint the smaller the pool will be. However, next week I’ll cover the most interesting part of the design: the “one of every set” restriction. Every set will be covered, some picks are great, and some could be an article all their own. See you next week!
 
Vincent
@VincentSIFTD on Twitter