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Answering Your Questions About Eternal Masters

Eternal Masters is probably the most important set of all-time from a finance perspective. We’d best leave the analysis to the expert! Chas, what does Eternal Masters mean for all of us?

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<p><i>Eternal Masters</i> is almost here, and it looks amazing. If you told me last month that we’d get <a href=Mana Crypt; Karakas; Jace, the Mind Sculptor; Force of Will; Natural Order; Sinkhole; Wasteland; and Sensei’s Divining Top…I’d have assumed the rest of the set would be awful. But it isn’t! Sure, there are a couple of Rorix Bladewings and Voids, but even the commons and uncommons are great. Chain Lightning? Swords to Plowshares? Cabal Therapy? Yes, please!

So what does this mean? Should you go out and buy singles? Foils? Boxes? Other Legacy cards? Should you open your Eternal Masters packs or hold onto them? And what Legacy decks are easier to build now? It’s time to answer all your questions, Eternal Masters-style.

Should I Buy A Box of Eternal Masters?

Without even thinking about the current value of the cards in Eternal Masters, let’s do a little comparative math. StarCityGames.com sells boxes of Modern Masters 2013 for $375, which comes out to $15.60 per pack. A Modern Masters 2015 box is sold out at $300, or $12.50 per pack. Eternal Masters is currently $350 per box, which splits those two numbers down the middle and gives us a current pack price of $14.58.

The Modern Masters price figures make sense when you think about the differences between the two sets. The original Modern Masters set is older and fewer packs were printed, which is why it’s worth a good deal more than the second. Granted, I had thought these boxes would be an easy $500 by now, but that was before we knew that reprint sets would be a regular thing. Now that we’re getting them at least once every two years, the $300-$400 range feels about right.

Using these figures, we can put a reasonable floor of $300 on the price of an Eternal Masters box. It’s true that Modern Masters 2015 boxes were cheaper than this for a while, but it’s only been about a year since that set came out and I’m pretty sure anyone interested in buying and holding boxes of Eternal Masters can commit to waiting for at least twelve months. So if you’re buying in anywhere below $300, you’re paying less than the lowest possible eventual secondary market price of the product.

But Eternal Masters could be a better buy than Modern Masters 2015. The cards aren’t as relevant for competitive play, but they are far more powerful in a vacuum. The print run is also much smaller—it’s closer to the first Modern Masters set in terms of size. And since there’s no Grand Prix Las Vegas this time around, the supply of Eternal Masters cards will probably be lower than it was for either Modern Masters set.

Realistically, then, Eternal Masters boxes should be worth at least $375—the price of a box of Modern Masters 2013—long-term…and they could be worth more. That will depend on whether there is another Eternal Masters set in two years. If so, the cap on this one is probably around $400/box. If not, there’s some dark-horse potential for seriously big bucks.

So yes, you are unlikely to lose money buying a box of Eternal Masters at $350, provided you keep it sealed and want to sell it in a year or so. But here’s the problem: you probably won’t make much, either. People will assume there will be another Eternal Masters set in 2018, whether it comes or not, so I can’t see a crazy secondary market for these. That said, if you’re on the fence about buying a box and you’re worried about the financial risk of holding onto one for a couple of months, don’t sweat it too much. I don’t see the value of these dropping off a cliff at any point in the foreseeable future.

When is the right time to buy my box? Should I get in now, or should I wait until the hype dies down?

When Modern Masters 2015 came out, sealed box prices dropped for several weeks after release and bottomed out about a month after the set hit shelves. If Eternal Masters does the same thing, the right play is to wait until early July before buying your box.

The first Modern Masters set didn’t behave that way, though. Once people realized that there was no second wave of product coming in, boxes started going up in price right away. The right play there was to buy your boxes a day or two after they hit shelves when supply was at their absolute highest.

Since it looks like Eternal Masters won’t have a second wave of supply, you might want to lock your box down at some point between now and the end of release week. You could find a deal later this summer—perhaps StarCityGames.com will have a booster box sale at some point—but I don’t foresee a long period of time where Eternal Masters boxes are cheap and plentiful. Personally, I’m going to look at getting mine in mid-June.

Should I open my box right away, or should I keep it sealed?

If you manage to luck into a box of Eternal Masters at MSRP ($240), feel free to keep it sealed. Wait about a year, maybe a year and a half, and sell it. You’ll make at least a hundred bucks and you can treat yourself and a couple of friends to a decent night out. (Or you can just draft the box and have an awesome night in.)

If you’re spending $350 on a box of Eternal Masters, though, there’s no reason to keep it sealed. Even if it goes up to $450, which is possible but very unlikely, a lot of your profit will be lost on shipping and fees. Instead, you should find seven friends, hold a draft, and crack those packs together.

Seriously—a significant portion of Eternal Masters’s “value” is that each box provides a full evening of fun for eight Magic players. I know that it’s tempting to only think about value in terms of straight dollars and cents, but you shouldn’t discount experiences as well. Heck, a night at the movies for eight people is going to cost at least $120, and that’s before you factor in food and drink. Unless getting eight awesome people together is prohibitively difficult for you, always draft your boxes. (Especially this set, where the Limited format looks incredible!)

The problem with opening boxes of sets like Eternal Masters is that someone will inevitably have better luck than you. Everyone has that one friend who got the foil Tarmogoyf and double Dark Confidant box of Modern Masters while you kept opening Comet Storms. Eternal Masters shouldn’t be quite as bad, since the pool of great rares and mythics is quite deep and there are some excellent commons and uncommons that will help smooth out the value a bit. Even still, some boxes will be awesome and some will be duds. It’s like gambling; do a little and you might get very lucky or very unlucky. Do a lot and eventually your luck will regress to the mean.

But will the cards I open be worth the $10-$15 I’ll have to pay for each Eternal Masters booster pack?

A few people crunched the numbers as soon as the full spoiler went up, and they calculated the EV of a booster pack (the expected value of the cards in a given pack, provided you open enough boosters to even out your luck) to be right around $13 if you use StarCityGames.com current retail prices. But that doesn’t include the foil slot, which is where the really absurd pulls will be hiding.

Adding in the foils puts the EV closer to $15 per pack, but that figure is very luck-dependent. Many of you will open boxes with $20 total worth of foils, but several of you will make back the cost of your box and then some with a single lucky pull.

Overall, you should expect the singles in your box to be worth somewhere between $300 and $400. So if you value the joy of the draft at a non-zero amount, buying a box at its current price makes sense. If you’re just going to wordlessly crack the packs, you might be better off buying singles instead.

Of course, this number crunch only counts the current value of the cards in Eternal Masters. If they go up or down in price, it will change.

What should I do with the cards I open?

I polled my Twitter followers to see what they were planning to do with their Eternal Masters cards, and I got about 350 responses. 35% of them said they were planning to either trade away or sell them. 33% were excited to put them in Commander decks, Casual decks, or their Cube. 26% wanted them to supplement their existing Modern or Legacy collection. 6% are hoping to use Eternal Masters as their springboard into Legacy.

My Twitter feed is not representational of the Magic community as a whole, and I’m pretty sure I have a higher-than-average number of traders and resellers among my followers. Regardless, at least 65% of people are hoping to keep their Eternal Masters cards, which should keep the market from becoming too flooded with excess singles. I still expect a short-term drop in singles prices as the people who are just interested in cracking packs and drafting the set dump all their unwanted cards onto the secondary market before prices start to steadily rise as supply dwindles again.

This makes my recommendation here pretty easy: hold onto all of your Eternal Masters cards for now. Don’t sell or trade any of them this summer, except for other Eternal Masters cards. They will almost assuredly be worth more a year from now, after the “sell/trade” crowd has moved on to something different and the supply of available Eternal Masters singles is much lower.

So you think prices will go up? When should I buy the singles I want?

There are two major moving pieces we have to address in order to answer this question. Let’s go one at a time.

The first is whether or not the Eternal Masters cards are being undervalued as whole right now. It is certainly possible that the print run is small enough and demand is high enough that most of these cards are currently underpriced, especially once you factor in how many low value rares were spoiled toward the end of last week. Can Karakas actually be down to $80? Is Sensei’s Divining Top really just a $25 card now?

If packs are selling for $15+ and enough of them have Control Magics and Voids in them, the better cards in the set could be worth pre-ordering regardless of whatever else is going on. Remember: the print run is small enough that the value of the singles does not have to be in symbiosis with the MSRP of the booster packs, like a normal set. If the EV of an Eternal Masters pack goes to $20, it’ll go to $20.

This is what happened during the first Modern Masters release. People overestimated how many packs would be opened, and most of the mythic rares ended up gaining value after the set hit shelves. You were better off pre-ordering a Tarmogoyf than trying to buy one at Grand Prix Las Vegas.

Is that going to happen with Eternal Masters? Based on the print run numbers, it’s possible. If there’s a specific card in Eternal Masters that you know you want a playset of, pre-ordering them now isn’t the worst idea. If you need a playset of something specific in order to finish a Legacy deck, go for it.

Even if Eternal Masters cards aren’t underpriced as whole, though, specific cards could still be good buys right now. In Modern Masters 2015, tournament staples like Spellskite and Leyline of Sanctity ended up being worth more than they sold for during the start of the pre-order period.

Finding underpriced cards like this can be difficult, but it’s not impossible. When stores price cards in sets like Eternal Masters, they often anchor the new price to whatever the old value was. This system tends to overprice cards that were expensive due to supply constraints and underprice cards that were expensive due to current demand.

The problem here is that most of the cards in Eternal Masters are expensive because of limited supply, not overwhelming demand. Based on this, I’d focus my pre-ordering on the format staples, especially those that fit in multiple decks. Wait on the niche rares and casual cards that are expensive simply because there haven’t been any of them printed in twenty years. Buy the things that make Legacy hum.

Last, I highly suggest getting any foils you are hoping to pick up as early as possible. Considering how many players are excited about Eternal Masters because of their Cubes and Commander decks, I expect these foils to hold their value very well, especially for cards that have never had a foil printing before. Pyroblast seems especially sweet.

What will Eternal Masters do to the price of other Legacy cards?

One of the more surprising things I discovered in my Twitter poll was that only 6% of my readers are hoping to use Eternal Masters as their path into Legacy. I think that number will go up once people start opening packs. It’s one thing to think about these cards theoretically. It’s another once you’ve opened two Wastelands and trade for a third.

I expect a bunch of people will crack a great pack or three and then say, “Well, I guess I’m playing Legacy now.” Here’s hoping enough people decide to go this route and Eternal Masters leads to a surge in Legacy’s popularity. It’s my favorite Constructed format, and I’d love to see it get a massive influx of new, excited players.

That said, I can’t ignore that 6% figure completely. If Eternal Masters only stimulates Legacy a little, it’ll do its job, but I doubt it’ll increase the player base to the point where Volcanic Island suddenly costs $500. If that happens, it’s probably buyout-related and I’d advise against buying into the hype. Regardless of what happens now, things should die down again in a few months.

I’ll devote a full article (maybe later this month?) on the best ways to get into Legacy now that we live in a post-Eternal Masters world. I expect a lot of people will use shocklands instead of dual lands as their way into the format, which is a great way to shave several hundred dollars off the cost of a deck while still getting to play it at a reasonably high level of efficiency.

Most people who use Eternal Masters as a bridge into Legacy will probably focus on the decks that have multiple Tier 1 pieces in the set. This is what I did in Modern after the first Modern Masters set came out; I bought an entire Affinity deck, since half the pieces had just been reprinted and were at all-time lows. It was one of the best buys I’ve ever made in Magic. Every card went up in value, and I’ve had a Tier 1 deck to play for the past three years.

So what Legacy decks have the most representation in Eternal Masters? There are a lot of Elves pieces, though that deck requires Gaea’s Cradle to really work. A lot of people will build Burn, which should mean good things for cards like Eidolon of the Great Revel and Goblin Guide, especially since they’re also great in Modern. Shardless Sultai is well-represented, but you’ll need to have Tarmogoyf and Liliana of the Veil. Dredge is missing its Lion’s Eye Diamonds. There are quite a few Miracles pieces, but no Snapcaster Mage. Sneak Attack made it in, but Show and Tell didn’t.

I’ve heard a lot of rumblings (and a Cardboard Crack comic!) talk about Death & Taxes as the most Eternal Masters-friendly deck, but even that requires playsets of Stoneforge Mystic; Thalia, Guardian of Thraben; and Aether Vial.

Ultimately, nearly all the best decks are represented here minus a couple of crucial high-end staples for each. I expect the finance folks will try to force some spikes on some lower-end Legacy cards that aren’t in the set, and they’ll probably succeed to a limited degree. It won’t be as bad as it was during Modern Masters, though, because Legacy is not a format that’s currently being played at PPTQs (like Modern was last spring), it’s less popular in general, and the real price crunch comes once you factor in the really expensive staples that aren’t in Eternal Masters. No one is stopped from playing Miracles because they don’t have Terminus; it’s the other $3,000 worth of cards that are the problem.

Instead of chasing the small non-Eternal Masters cards that will inevitably start spiking this week, focus on the major cards that weren’t reprinted. Reserved list cards are solid calls. Many of them jumped when Eternal Masters was spoiled, but some of the more important ones like Lion’s Eye Diamond, City of Traitors, and Gaea’s Cradle could see another major bump. I’d also look long and hard at cards that pull double-duty in Legacy and Modern; Tarmogoyf looks especially good to me right now, too, especially since it hasn’t really rebounded since its Modern Masters 2015 printing.

I also love the Zendikar fetchlands right now. They’re the real key to both Modern and Legacy, and at this point they aren’t likely to show up again until Modern Masters 2017. Aether Vial is a strong play, especially after what Merfolk did at Grand Prix Los Angeles and the current Death & Taxes hype. Show and Tell, Damnation, Flusterstorm, and Rishadan Port will probably go up, since most people expected them to be slam-dunks for Eternal Masters.

Here’s a partial list of the best Legacy cards that aren’t on the Reserved List and also didn’t make it into Eternal Masters. If you are looking for cards that might spike this week, this is where you’ll probably find them:

Misdirection is also a notable absence online. In paper, Conspiracy helped bring the price down. On MTGO, it’s still quite expensive.

This Week’s Trends

With its reprinting in Eternal Masters, Winter Orb has been returned to its original functionality! I have no idea if it’ll be good enough in Legacy or Vintage—people better at those formats than I am are probably trying to figure that out right now—but I wouldn’t mind owning a set just in case. I also expect A/B/U versions to rise due to its implications for 93/94 Old School Magic. I’m not sure what else might be worth picking up here, though. Ring of Gix, maybe?

Standard is in full summer lull, especially with all the focus on Modern (Grand Prix Los Angeles) and Legacy (Eternal Masters) this week. Almost every card is trending downward, with the exception of Dragonlord Silumgar; Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet; and Transgress the Mind. Even Nahiri, the Harbinger seems to have peaked; after a less-than-amazing performance at the Modern GP, her value is coming back to Earth and I’m a seller.

In Modern and Legacy, prices were pretty stable as people watched the Eternal Masters spoilers roll in. All the spoiled cards saw sudden reductions in price, and a couple of the things that weren’t in the set have started to go up in price. I expect a little more of that this week, though like I said earlier I doubt it’ll be anything like what happened in Modern last year. Legacy is a slower-moving creature and any bigger spikes should sort themselves out over the next couple of months. If any of the potential spikes stick, they’ll be Modern-legal cards like the Zendikar fetchlands.