You know what happened next, of course. Wizards of the Coast confirmed the existence of Eternal Masters at the exact same moment my article went live, making me somehow look really prescient and really stupid at the same time. But hey—Eternal Masters is actually coming this spring! Now what?
Well, today’s article is going to seem a little like a re-hash of last week. This is a feature, not a bug. I want to address everything again—and in far greater detail—now that we’ve moved away from idle speculation and into the realm of actual prediction. And holy mackerel, there sure is a lot to talk about with about Eternal Masters. I don’t think I’ve seen much else on my Twitter feed this week.
What is “Eternal?”
Despite early rumors to the contrary, Eternal Masters will not be accompanied by a brand new Constructed format. Aaron Forsythe confirmed this on Twitter. Eternal Masters is designed to support Vintage, Legacy, Commander, and Cube. If you’re expecting some kind of Overextended or Legacy Junior to hit the scene this year, don’t expect Wizards to take the lead.
This hasn’t stopped some bold Redditors from taking matters into their own hands, though. Their goal is to create a new Constructed format (they’re calling it Eternal for now) that is essentially Legacy minus the Reserved List. Their hope is that the format will similar to Legacy, but without any un-solvable card availability issues.
It’s a noble effort, and it’s worth monitoring their efforts from a financial perspective. Anytime a new format catches on, even one as niche as 93/94 Old School or Tiny Leaders, there are lots of opportunities to make money. I mean, hey, who knew Juzam Djinn would be a thing again?
The biggest problem with the proposed Eternal format is the one we discussed last week: basing a format on an ancient list of several hundred fairly random cards is asking for trouble. Are deckbuilders supposed to be constantly referencing the Reserved List in order to make sure they don’t accidentally include Frankenstein’s Monster? Are judges supposed to be able to intuit or memorize the fact that playing a Triangle of War is worth a game loss? That’s madness, and not the sweet kind that’s coming back in Innistrad.
Ultimately, I can’t see Wizards of the Coast sanctioning this format as-is. If you really want to make no-Reserved-List Legacy, just ban the twenty or 30 most-played Reserved List cards and make it clear that the others are on notice. That takes care of the card availability issues while giving players and judges a fighting chance of actually being able to figure out what the heck is actually legal in this format.
Eternal is still just an idea for now, though, and good ol’ Legacy is the format Eternal Masters is designed to boost. Will the set actually increase the number of active Legacy players? I really hope so. Legacy has taken a comfortable back seat to Modern over the past few years, but it’s really fun to play. The Eternal Masters print run appears to be similar to Modern Masters—smaller than Modern Masters 2015—so you’re going to want to pre-order a box if you’re one of the lucky few who have a hook-up at MSRP. I’m not sure if that’ll be enough to actually invigorate the Legacy community, but I think there’s a shot that it will.
Most people seem to agree with me. Since the Eternal Masters news broke, people have started to buy up all the Reserved List staples that can’t be reprinted this June. This is worth monitoring, because it’ll be a good barometer for Legacy’s health as Eternal Masters bursts onto the scene. If these spiked cards maintain their value or rise again this spring, it probably means that the Legacy community is starting to grow again.
Reserved List Speculation
What Legacy staples are actually on the Reserved List? Let’s take a look. I’ve included current prices as well as a brief list of current decks using each card.
Please note that this is not a comprehensive or a perfectly-curated list. If a single winning deck over the past six months had a copy of one of these cards in its sideboard, I included it here. Most Jund decks don’t play Scrubland, for example, but one of them did, so on the list it went. I like to do this because it allows me to ignore my preconceived notions. It’s easy to assume that Scrubland doesn’t actually see any play in Legacy outside the Esper tempo decks, but the math tells a slightly different story.
The dual lands are the most important Reserved List cards, so let’s start there. Here they are, from most expensive to least:
· Tundra – $219.99 (Miracles, Mentor, U/W Enchantments, StoneBlade, Omni-Tell, Delver, DeathBlade, Shardless Sultai)
· Bayou – $169.99 (Reanimator, Shardless Sultai, Storm, Tin Fins, Elves, Jund, Abzan, Loam, Maverick, StoneBlade, Infect, Enchantress, Delver, Pox)
· Badlands – $89.99 (Goblins, Storm, Delver, Jund, Abzan, Doomsday)
· Scrubland – $78.69 (Tin Fins, Reanimator, Shardless Sultai, Esper StoneBlade, Loam, Maverick, DeathBlade, Jund)
· Plateau – $69.99 (Goblins, Painter)
Ugh, there is no avoiding this mess. Dual lands are the biggest barrier of entry to Legacy, and they’re only getting more expensive now that Eternal Masters is coming. The good news? You don’t need all of them to play. Most Tier 1 Legacy decks run between three and eight duals, and you can substitute shocklands for them as you work toward your playsets.
I’m not sure any of these dual lands are underpriced based on current playability. They’ve all gone up a little since last week after spending the better part of a year ticking down in value. Savannah and Scrubland both look a little low to me, but they just aren’t nearly as crucial as the blue duals.
All the lands on here have room to grow still, and the ones under $100 have the highest ceiling. This has been true for the past twenty years, though, so you shouldn’t feel the need to run out and buy a stack of these instead of paying your rent this month.
What about the other Reserved List staples that see play in Legacy? Well, the real list is smaller than you might think:
· The Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale – $799.99 (Lands)
· Moat – $399.99 (Miracles)
· Chains of Mephistopheles – $349.99 (Pox, Jund)
· The Abyss – $249.99 (Tezzeret)
· Eureka – $199.99 (Eureka-Tell)
· Gaea’s Cradle – $199.99 (Elves, Maverick)
· Lion’s Eye Diamond – $129.99 (Storm, ANT, Painter, Doomsday, Belcher, Dredge)
· Mox Diamond – $69.99 (Lands, Abzan, Sultai Depths, Twin, Loam, Tezzeret, Jund, Pox)
· Serra’s Sanctum – $49.99 (Enchantress)
· Grim Monolith – $49.99 (MUD)
· Metalworker – $39.99 (MUD)
· Volrath’s Stronghold – $29.99 (Pox)
· Gilded Drake – $24.99 (Merfolk)
· Time Spiral – $24.99 (Doomsday)
· Null Rod – $19.99 (Delver, Shardless Sultai, Jund, Elves, Infect, Loam)
· Humility – $14.99 (Miracles, U/W Enchantments)
· Aluren – $9.99 (Aluren)
· Helm of Obedience – $9.79 (Miracles, Tezzeret, Enchantress, Stoneblade, U/W Enchantments)
· Firestorm – $8.99 (Delver, Dredge)
· Shallow Grave – $7.99 (Tin Fins)
· Dream Halls – $7.99 (Mizzix’s Mastery)
· Cursed Scroll – $6.99 (Pox)
· Peacekeeper – $3.99 (Miracles, Aluren)
Let’s break this down a little more. The Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale is a requirement for playing Lands, but I can’t imagine Eternal Masters doing anything to make this card more expensive. You either have your copy of Tabernacle or you don’t, and that’s that.
I don’t think it is worth worrying about Chains of Mephistopheles or The Abyss, either. These are sideboard cards or maindeck one-ofs that I’ve only rarely seen played during an actual tournament. They’re expensive because all playable Legends rares are expensive. Don’t worry about them, either.
At $400, Moat is a tough one. You probably want a copy in your sideboard if you’re playing Miracles, but it’s not like you can’t play the deck without it. Think of it as the cherry on the top of the Miracles sundae: super-tasty and really photogenic, but it’s not like you can’t enjoy a sundae if they’re all out of cherries. I doubt anyone will decide that they can’t play Miracles because they can’t get a Moat, and if they don’t have a spare $400, they’ll figure out a different sideboard plan. I expect some key Miracles pieces to show up in Eternal Masters, but I doubt that’ll cause Moat to hit $600 or anything.
Next up are Eureka and Gaea’s Cradle. These two are tough, because you need four of them at $200 each to play Eureka-Tell or Elves. That’s the same investment as buying a copy of The Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale! Eternal Masters could cause these cards to keep going up, but that would require the rest of the set to push players in that direction. If we get Natural Order, Glimpse of Nature, Nettle Sentinel, Heritage Druid, and Deathrite Shaman, for example, dropping all that money on Cradles becomes more palatable. It’s likely that the set will have a strong Elves theme in green, so Cradle could hit $250 or $300. Woof!
In the next tier down are Mox Diamond, City of Traitors, and Lion’s Eye Diamond. These are the best fast mana cards in Legacy, and they’re each used in multiple decks. All three cards have seen big price spikes over the past week, so I’d be a little wary of buying in at the moment. People are going to want these cards in June, but it’s possible they’ll dip at some point between now and then. Just pay attention to the Eldrazi lists. If they start dominating Legacy like they did in Modern, City of Traitors could be a $200 card very quickly.
Of the $20 – $50 cards, Intuition looks like the best buy to me. It’s blue, it’s powerful, and it’s played in the most decks by a wide margin. It’s been speculated that Aluren will become much more popular if Imperial Recruiter is reprinted in Eternal Masters, and Intuition is a staple in that deck. At just $30, there’s room for an easy double-up here.
All the cards $20 and under are worth buying if you’re a Legacy player. That’s one of the annoying aspects of the Reserved List: it doesn’t take much for any of these spells to go crazy and hit $40 overnight because there’s no risk of getting hosed by a reprint. I especially like Aluren (see above), Helm of Obedience, and Null Rod.
An Introduction to Reprint Equity
A fake Eternal Masters spoiler list (first posted on 4Chan) has been making the rounds this week. I’m not going to dignify the creator by posting it again here because it is so obviously fake. First off, nearly every card on the list is actually a Legacy staple, strike one if you’ve ever opened a booster pack of Modern Masters 2015. Strike two? Mindslicer is on the list. People are only thinking about this card because it was randomly bought out a few weeks ago; no way would WotC have added that random card to a set that has probably been in development for over a year.
Oh, and strike three, the list contains Reserved List rare Scroll Rack. How are we supposed to create a no-Reserved-List format when our best trolls can’t even keep the darn thing straight?
(FYI, I suspect this might be partially my fault. You see, I also wrote that Scroll Rack could be in Eternal Masters last week. Yeah, the Reserved List isn’t an easy document to navigate. I suspect the leaker was cribbing off my article and assumed that I knew what I was talking about. Joke’s on them!)
Fake leaks aside, I do think we should spend some more time trying to figure out exactly what Eternal Masters might contain. It’s not going to be easy. First off, Aaron Forsythe said on Twitter that the set will contain some Modern-legal cards, though the focus will be on Legacy and Vintage staples. This gives us a massive card pool to draw from.
Second, it’s impossible to guess the rarity on some of these cards that haven’t been printed in a decade or more. Force of Will was an uncommon, and now it’s a mythic. Wasteland was an uncommon, and now it’s a rare. Eldrazi Temple was downgraded from rare to uncommon in Modern Masters 2015. Where would you put Shardless Agent? What about Enlightened Tutor? I have no idea. It’s all guesswork at this point.
For those of you who are expecting the set to contain all ten fetchlands, Liliana of the Veil, Snapcaster Mage, Mana Drain, a dog, a pony, and a shiny new train set, though, let’s have a quick conversation about a concept I like to call reprint equity. Packs of Eternal Masters are going to be $10, same as Modern Masters. Wizards of the Coast really wants you to buy their $10 packs today, but they also want you to buy their $10 packs next year, and the year after that, and the year after that. How can they make that happen?
Well, if I were in charge of choosing reprints, I’d mark up each potential card so it looked like this:
Tarmogoyf – Tier 1
· Player Demand: 9 (formerly 10)
· Scarcity: 6 (formerly 10)
· Elasticity: high
Phyrexian Altar – Tier 2
· Player Demand: 2 (no reprint)
· Scarcity: 10 (no reprint)
· Elasticity: low
There are many more factors at play, but the important thing is that both these numbers experience a temporary drop each time a card is reprinted. Scarcity drops because more copies of the card are entering the market, and player demand drops because it is at least partially a measure of scarcity. Follow me so far?
Now, Tarmogoyf is highly elastic. Because player demand is only loosely tied to scarcity—it also includes other factors, like how much a card is played in Modern and Legacy—you can print a lot of them before the market is saturated. Phyrexian Altar, though? That card has a low elasticity. That’s because actual demand for the card is quite low. It’s good in Commander, sure, but it’s only worth $30 right now because it’s never been reprinted.
Bottom line, you can reprint Tarmogoyf every couple of years and be reasonable sure that it will still be exciting for a player to open one. On the other hand, Phyrexian Altar is probably only going to be an exciting reprint once.
Player demand and scarcity are both limited resources. Even though Tarmogoyf is highly elastic, you can’t fill every set with them because there are only so many Tier 1 cards. Once you overprint your Tier 1 staples, you can’t sell packs for $10 anymore. You can’t fill every other slot with Phyrexian Altars either, though; that would mean you’d be out of exciting second-tier cards to help push next year’s set.
The trick is to come up with just enough cards from both of those tiers and mix them in with a bunch of sawdust—um, I mean, Bone Saws—and cross your fingers. We know that Wizards R&D tracks complexity points—put too many in your set, and development will tweak things until it hits the sweet spot of “just complex enough.” I imagine they have do a similar thing with reprint equity in sets like these, making sure that the packs are just valuable enough to be exciting without spending too much. Keep this in mind when thinking about the Eternal Masters spoiler.
This brings me to one of the biggest rumors about Eternal Masters: that it will contain all five Zendikar fetchlands. This might end up being true—the source of the rumor is the same person who spoiled the set in the first place, and he made me look like a chump last time—but it still doesn’t make sense to me. Fetchlands were a big part of why Khans of Tarkir sold so many packs. Are we really wasting that much reprint equity on a set that already has Force of Will and Wasteland? It’s possible—heck, I was wrong about this set existing in the first place—but it still doesn’t make any sense to me. I’m leaving them out of my prediction for now.
My Best Guess at the Full Eternal Masters Spoiler
With 249 cards in Eternal Masters, there should be fifteen mythics and 53 rares in Eternal Masters. Let’s see how close I can come to guessing them all.
This part of the article is basically me just making 68 weighted coin flips in a row for fun. If I somehow manage to get the set entirely right, I’ll take it as confirmation that I am an actual wizard.
Even though I assume that I’m not going to be right about most of these guesses, these sorts of thought experiments are still useful. Right now, it kind of feels like every Legacy staple not on the Reserved List will probably be included in Eternal Masters, doesn’t it? That can’t actually happen, though, so what could the set actually look like? What shape might it take?
The best way to figure that out is to start looking up card prices, weighing them in your mind, and jotting them down. I assembled this list very holistically; I read a bunch of Legacy deck lists, I scanned a bunch of price guides, and then I started sorting everything by value and color identity. I imagine I’ll be more correct on the shallower colors, like red and black, than blue. There are dozens of great blue cards that could be in this set, and there was no way I could include them all.
I also upgraded a handful of uncommons that I thought might have some play at rare. I have no idea if WotC will do that, but it made sense to me.
Anyway, the list:
· No Mercy
· Patriarch’s Bidding
· Green Sun’s Zenith
· Eladamri’s Call
· Grafdigger’s Cage
· Sensei’s Divining Top
I deliberately avoided selecting too many cards that are staples in Modern, but I might have gone too far in that direction. I also probably screwed up and included at least one Reserved List card. What do you think were my biggest omissions? My biggest reaches? Hit me up in the comments and we’ll see if we can crowd-source a decent Eternal Masters card list before spoiler season begins.
This Week’s Trends
Well, the biggest news this week is what we’ve been talking about for the past 3000 words—people have been snapping up Reserved List staples, and some (Lion’s Eye Diamond, Mox Diamond, Aluren) have almost doubled in price. Don’t buy into the hype, but definitely drive down to your local shop and see if you can snag some of these cards at their pre-spike values.
Force of Will and Wasteland have dropped in price significantly. Wasteland going down makes sense—it’ll be a rare in Eternal Masters—but I don’t think Force of Will is going to be printed in great enough quantities to really hurt its value. If Force keeps dropping, it should make a nice buy-low in the weeks leading up to the Eternal Masters set release.
Did you know there was an Arboria buyout on Saturday? Yeah, don’t worry about it. It’s a silly card and it’s certainly not worth whatever crazy number people are attaching to it at the moment. Wait for it to actually show up in a deck first, and then we can talk.
Also silly: the One with Nothing buyout that happened this week. I get that it’s nice with Madness, a returning mechanic, but… I mean, it’s One with Nothing! Do we seriously think this is going to be a thing!? Sell your copies into the spike if you can.
A card I do like in Modern? Eldrazi Displacer! It’s starting to see play in one of the consensus Modern Eldrazi lists, Danny West’s new Hate Bears deck, and it’s a fantastic casual card, so the floor is low. I’m in for a playset at current retail. I might have legs in Standard, too.
You know who’s been showing up more in Standard? My old pal Goblin Dark-Dwellers! I haven’t been following Standard as closely as I usually do, thanks to the Modern Pro Tour and the Eternal Masters speculation, and I doubt I’m alone in that camp. If you’ve been a little out of the loop too, check out this spicy brew:
Here’s another deck from that event that caught my eye:
- 4 Hangarback Walker
- 2 Wasteland Strangler
- 2 Endbringer
- 4 Reality Smasher
- 4 Thought-Knot Seer
- 4 Bearer of Silence
- 4 Matter Reshaper
If you think this is the best direction for Standard Eldrazi, Bearer of Silence looks like a nice buy. It’s a four-of in that deck and it’s a very powerful card.
Other than that, Four-Color Rally has quietly taken the reins as the format’s best deck. It’s fairly cheap to play the deck, other than the Collected Companies and Jaces. Whomp-whomp. Because of that, most of the other cards in Rally haven’t really gone up in price. This makes sense; those two playsets are a pretty serious bottleneck. I can’t see much growth potential in this deck because of that, unfortunately. If you have extra Rally cards lying around, I’d sell.