Robert Chesley

Speculation, Magic: The Gathering Modern Masters

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So it was announced during Pro Tour: Return to Ravnica, that a new non-Standard legal expansion would be coming in June.

The following is all the official at-a-glance information that Wizards provided about the product:

229 Reprint Cards for the Modern Format, many with new art
Cards are reprints from Eighth Edition through Alara Reborn
New never before printed tokens
15-card booster packs, one premium per pack
Designed to be drafted
24 packs per box
$6.99 MSRP
English only, global distribution
Conservative print run
These cards won’t be Standard-legal. But they will be tournament-legal in all formats where the original printing is legal. And what that means is that this card is going to be in booster packs that are hitting stores on June 7, 2013.

We also know that the most expensive barrier to entry to the format will be reprinted, the card is Tarmogoyf. This card, while to the untrained eye seems narrow and innocent enough, is actually the yard stick to the format. In a format where you consistently have lands, spells, and permanents going to the graveyard you are able to profitably cast Tarmogoyf to be at least a 3/4 but most games he is at least a 4/5 for just two mana investment. The card is seen in top level decks ever since it was printed and has maintained a hefty price tag throughout. I recall only one time I was able to get a Tarmogoyf for under thirty dollars, I passed it up thinking that it would drop on rotation. I can only remember a few times that it has dipped below sixty dollars a piece. Right now it is pushing on the door of eighty to ninety dollars a card.

Ever since the inception of the Modern format it has been told that they are going to aggressively reprint cards that are relevant. Siting the “hard ceiling” that a format like Legacy has because of the Reserved List. The Reserved List, while admittedly was a mistake, is a promise to collector’s that Wizards will not print any card for any reason ever again. It effectively ties up all “story relevant” rares and “the good stuff” from most of Magic’s first five years. This means that while Legacy sees a good number of events, they can’t address card supply directly. They can’t print the cards that are good in Legacy tournaments hence they can’t really grow the format beyond a certain point. The point of Modern is a to have a format that is like Legacy (meaning cards do not “rotate out”) but they are able to print any card at any point as deemed by the demand of the format and to ensure healthy growth.

Personally, outside of sealed deck, I play primarily Legacy and Modern. I hate the idea that a deck is only good for a month or two before I have to spend hundreds of dollars to retool or adjust to a metagame. That doesn’t mean that there isn’t a changing metagame in Legacy or Modern, it just means that the money I spend for the good cards do not depreciate at the rapid pace that Standard cards often do. I like to know that the five hundred dollars I just dropped on a good deck means that in five years I can get five hundred dollars back or at least still have a decent deck with minor updates.

As for what will this set be like? Well, considering that they are willing to print the most sought after, expensive card in recent history really opens the doors up to what this set will be like. From the preview article, we also see some artwork that looks suspiciously like City of Brass. We also know that this set was created for stuff that they “just can’t put in Standard”. Which means that any pack of this you open you’ll likely get *some* kind of value out of it. While I am extremely suspect that “all of the great Modern cards” will be in this there are a few that I think have some serious merit. 8th edition to Alara Reborn spans a lot of sets, I played Magic a lot during this time (in fact, I had just gotten back in the game right before 8th edition was released) and while I do own most and many of the relevant cards, this set really excites me. There were times where it was just too hard to get cards or I couldn’t pick them up for whatever reason I feel this will address many of those kinds of issues for a lot of people.

According to the announcement article, the format will play like a cross between Cube and regular set. Cube draft is a format where only the best of the best cards are included. We will also see the return of Faeries and Dredge. Both of these are cards that hold a lot of power in constructed formats. Obviously not all the cards will be 100 percent winners, but with pack prices nearly three dollars above what they usually are, I can expect we will see some higher priced commons and uncommons in a lot of the slots.

We also do not know how “limited” it will be. We know that it won’t have the print run that say Return to Ravnica has. We know it likely will not be sold at the mass market superstores like Target or Wal-Mart. I am just guessing, but I think it will have a pretty healthy supply for the first month. I feel the print run is going to be about the same as a typical “first run large set” and that will be it. That will increase the supply of a lot of these cards to numbers comparable to their more “Modern” brethren. While I feel that anyone who wants to get this set will be able to get it, but it will sell out before Magic 2014 is legal. I also feel that it has the chance to affect the uncommon and common prices far more than the rare or mythic rares in the set.

This is also considered a test. They are testing the market to see how it affects not only growth in Modern as a format, but to see if they are able to print booster packs that are not always Standard legal. Something that I have been clamoring for a long time. Personally, me as a player, I don’t play a lot of Standard. I love all the products they produce that target non-Standard formats. That means Duel Decks, Commander decks, Archenemy and Planeschase decks I gobble those up. I don’t buy new expansions as much other than to draft or play a sealed deck here and there. I think this product is going to be widely successful. It has the potential to bring a lot of players into a format that I love playing and wish was more widely available.

One more thing before I end it, a lot of people are worried about the price of their collections. This format was built specifically so they could pump relevant cards back into the system should they need to. They do understand the value of collections and that not everyone is super excited that cards they invested in will lose some value when it gets reprinted. I do want to say a few things about this. I own a lot of expensive Magic cards. I can build a lot of high end decks in a wide range of formats. I don’t say that to brag or gloat, but to qualify what I’m about to say. I want to have a format where new players can jump on board. I was there when Vintage died out because no one could afford the cards. I am currently feeling that pressure with Legacy, it has a hard ceiling on what can and can’t be reprinted, unfortunately a lot of relevant cards can’t, that limits the player base significantly. With Modern, Wizards willingness to try different products to get us the cards we need so we can grow a format should be commended. If the value of my cards halved tomorrow just so we can see a lot more events in the formats I enjoy to play, I would gladly do that.

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