Masters 25 Finance Review

The reviews are in, and they’re mixed! What’s the deal with this set? What’s the future look like for some of these long-awaited reprints? Are people giving a fair shake to a set with Jace and Port? Chas answers all!

#SCGDFW March 10-11!

Masters 25
is here, and the reviews are mixed. While some people are thrilled about
the watermarks, the new flavor text, and much-needed reprints for cards
like Imperial Recruiter, Rishadan Port, and the Eventide filter
lands, others feel like the set is too bereft of value, at least at a
$10/pack MSRP. My Twitter feed is split, and the howling masses on
r/magictcg are decidedly in the “burn it all down” camp.

Pro or con, most people seem to agree that Masters 25 shares more
DNA with Iconic Masters than with Modern Masters 2017,
and they’re eager to get back to the older way of doing things regardless
of what

Gavin Verhey has to say

about awesome Limited environments.

With all of that in mind, I’d like to address three different things in my Masters 25 financial set review today.

An in-depth look at the actual cards in Masters 25,
including an analysis of which ones should hold their value the
best. You know, normal set review stuff.

A direct comparison between Masters 25,Iconic Masters, Modern Masters 2017, and Modern Masters 2015. Since I wrote comprehensive release
week reviews for all of these sets, (I didn’t do one for Eternal Masters, which is why it’s not included) we can
compare the values of the cards included at the time the full set had just been previewed
to see how Masters 25 stacks up in terms of delivering the
goods. Are people right to be nostalgic for Modern Masters 2017, (which was still less than a year
ago!) or are we underrating Masters 25 for some other

My thoughts about why so many people seem to be down on this set
and what it means for the Masters series going forward.

That’s a lot. We’d better get started!

Mythic Rares

Unsurprisingly, Jace, the Mind Sculptor is the chase card of Masters 25. Did you expect anything else? Jace almost
single-handedly saves this fairly uninspiring crop of mythics, and I
suspect they would have been seen as disastrously bad had R&D
ultimately chosen not to unban the powerful planeswalker. We live in Jace’s
world now, though, and I see no reason why he won’t be able to sustain a
price in the $75-$90 range as long as he proves as important to the Modern
metagame as it looks like he will be.

Imperial Recruiter really doesn’t see much play in Legacy these days,
though that might change a little bit now that it’s far more accessible.
Cubers are going to want a copy, too, and it’s a pretty solid card in
Commander. Imperial Recruiter wasn’t a $100+ card due to demand, though-it
was the fact that it was only printed as a judge foil and in Portal: Three Kingdoms. Now that a bunch of these are going to be
hitting the market, this card has a long way to drop. In fact, I wouldn’t
be shocked if you’ll be able to pick up your Imperial Recruiters for
$35-$40. The smart money at this point is on buying Aluren, a Reserved List
card that’s just $25 and is a necessary component of the Recruiter decks.

On the other hand, Chalice of the Void has already survived a Masters set
reprint – at rare, no less. Demand is the real driver of price here, and I
suspect it’ll maintain most of its current value before rebounding fairly
quickly. I’ll be targeting this as a strong buy about two or three weeks
after Masters 25 hits shelves.

Ensnaring Bridge is a little more like Imperial Recruiter; its price tag
has more to do with the fact that it hasn’t been reprinted since 8th Edition than a broad base of demand. The price of
this one has already dropped a ton since Masters 25 was announced,
but it still has further to fall. I bet it’ll settle in closer to the $25

Vendilion Clique had already dropped a bunch thanks to multiple Masters set
reprints, and it might start to see more play in Modern now that Jace, the
Mind Sculptor is legal. I doubt this one is dropping below $20 at any
point, though this fourth (!) printing will limit its upside going forward.

Animar, Soul of Elements and Phyrexian Obliterator both have a little bit
further they can drop. This is just the second reprint for both of these
cards, so the price anchor is based on a level of scarcity that isn’t going
to exist anymore once Masters 25 drops. I bet both cards will end
up in the $10-$15 range.

Total Mythic Value Prior to Release: $367

  • $55 more than MM17 ($312)
  • $83 less than Iconic Masters ($450)
  • $244 less than MM15 ($611)

Average Mythic Value Prior to Release: $24.46

  • $3.66 more than MM17 ($20.80)
  • $5.54 less than Iconic Masters ($30)
  • $15.54 less than MM15 ($41)

As you can see, M25 appears to have a better mythic rare make-up
than MM17, while falling short of Iconic Masters and well
short of Modern Masters 2015. Huh? I thought Iconic Masters was supposed to be the “bad” one!

This discrepancy can mostly be explained away by Mana Drain, which pre-sold
for $200 before eventually dropping to $70. Strip out that extra $130 and M25s mythics end up about $50 ahead. Since M25 doesn’t have a
mythic that’s likely to see a drop that big-Imperial Recruiter has already
fallen a bunch-I think we can say that this crop is at least a little bit
better than both Iconic Masters and MM17.

So why are people remembering MM17 so fondly here? Well, its big
hit mythics-Liliana of the Veil, Snapcaster Mage, Cavern of Souls,
Tarmogoyf-have all shot up in price a bunch recently. I’d absolutely rather
open a box of Modern Masters 2017 today. Strictly in terms of
release week prices, though, Masters 25 has the most expensive
crop of mythics.

…until you look at Modern Masters 2015. Holy cow! $611 in mythics?
The rares in that set must have been terrible, right?

*checks the spoiler*

Okay, yeah, they absolutely were. At some point between MM15 and
now, WotC decided to shift some of the value out of the mythic slot and
into the rare slot, which seems like a good change to me.

Mythic Rare Hit Rate: 46.6%

  • 13.3% better than MM17 (33.3%)
  • 6.7% worse than Iconic Masters (53.3%)
  • 46.7% worse than MM15 (93.3%)

For this metric, I’m counting every card that pre-sold for $15 or more as a
“hit” (you’d be happy to open it in a booster pack) and every card less
than that as a “miss” (you’d be bummed to open it). I expected M25
to score pretty low on this scale since it appears to have so many duds,
but it’s well within the standards established by the last two Masters
sets. Again, Modern Masters 2015 was the outlier here; Comet Storm
was the only bad mythic in the entire set.

What about the number of sub-$5 mythics, though? Doesn’t M25 fail
hard on this level? Not really. By this metric too, M25 still
isn’t a major outlier. Modern Masters 2017 had an identical number
of $5-and-under mythics, though Iconic Masters and MM15
each only had one.

In terms of mythic rare value, then, Masters 25 isn’t much
different than Iconic Masters, which isn’t much different than Modern Masters 2017.

But what about the rares?



This is only the second time that Thalia, Guardian of Thraben has been
printed (save the Judge foil) but it sees enough play that it should stay
above-or at least near-the $10 mark. I expect Darien, King of Kjeldor to
end up closer to bulk; if a Coldsnap card couldn’t break $10 back
when its supply was basically zero, it’s not going to end up worth anything
now that the supply is more than tripling. Rest in Peace should be a nice
long-term buy, though. Return to Ravnica was already an
overprinted set, so this one has proven it can sustain heavy supply.


Pact of Negation has rebounded from a reprint before, and it’ll probably do
so again. Look to snag these around $12 if you want them-it’s unique and
powerful enough that it should continue to remain popular. The rest of
these cards are financially irrelevant.


Yuck-not a single black rare you’d really be psyched to open. Living Death
will probably keep being worth a couple of bucks, but that’s about it.


Blood Moon keeps being reprinted, and this is one of the coolest versions
available-the watermark looks absolutely stunning. It’s possible that this
will be the time that Blood Moon finally settles in around $20, but it
drops down here every time it’s reprinted and it has yet to not rebound in
price almost immediately. If you still need your Blood Moons, I’d snag a
set a couple weeks after Masters 25 drops.

Eidolon of the Great Revel has had difficulty staying above the $10 mark
thanks to the high supply for all the Theros block cards. It might
end up back in the $8-$9 range again soon, but this one’s unlikely to
experience a significant jump in price at any point.


Azusa, Lost but Seeking was stupidly expensive because it was only printed
in Champions of Kamigawa and as a Judge foil. $15-$20 is
reasonable for it now; it only sees a little bit of Modern play, but
Commander demand should be pretty steady. Summoner’s Pact is similar to
Pact of Negation in that it’s likely to experience a long-term rebound, but
I wouldn’t buy in until it bottoms out at some point over the summer.


Jeepers. Vindicate and Pernicious Deed would have been super exciting
inclusions once upon a time, but heavy reprints killed that demand a long
time ago. Eladamri’s Call will probably end up dropping even further since
its value was based on very low supply, leaving all of these cards below


This isn’t a very inspiring bunch of rares, either. Coalition Relic is
still a solid role-player in Commander, though there is a lot more
competition for that spot than their used to be so I wouldn’t expect it to
remain above $5 for long.


All right. This is what we were waiting for, and Masters 25 only
sort of disappoints us here.

First, Rishadan Port is a much-needed reprint. This card has been super
high for approximately forever, and I was shocked that it didn’t show up in Eternal Masters. The only problem is…who, exactly, is spending $50
on this? It’s more obnoxious than anything in Commander, it’s not legal in
Modern, and it doesn’t really see any play in Vintage. It’ll make Legacy
Death and Taxes a bit cheaper, but I don’t know where the demand is beyond
that. Legacy Lands is like a $10,000 deck-if you’re buying into that one,
you probably have your Rishadan Ports already. I imagine that Rishadan Port
will remain valuable because it’s always been valuable, but that’s not
exactly the sort of marquee card you want to hang your set on.

The Eventide filter lands are in a similar boat. These cards are
role-players in Modern, showing up as one-ofs and two-ofs once in a while.
Twilight Mire seems like the best of them since it’s useful in Jund and
Abzan, but these cards aren’t going to immediately rebound like the Zendikar fetchlands did. They were expensive because they were
only printed once, in Eventide. Commander players will want them
if they drop below $10, but there are so many options for mana fixing in
that format already. Don’t expect these to end up back above $20 again

Lastly, Mikokoro, Center of the Sea was expensive because it was only
printed in Saviors of Kamigawa, the most forgettable Magic set of
all time. It might’ve been due for a spike because it’s good with Jace, the
Mind Sculptor, but now that it has been reprinted I doubt it’ll see enough
play to keep it above $5 for long.

Total Rare Value Prior to Release: $324

  • $29 less than MM17 ($353)
  • $429 less than Iconic Masters ($753)
  • $20 more than MM15 ($304)

Average Rare Value Prior to Release: $6.11

  • $0.54 less than MM17 ($6.65)
  • $7.84 less than Iconic Masters ($13.95)
  • $0.38 more than MM15 ($5.73)

Interesting. From this perspective, Iconic Masters is the crazy
outlier, and I had to triple-check my math in order to ensure that I didn’t
accidently count the mythics again or something. Nope. Horizon Canopy,
Grove of the Burnwillows, Aether Vial, Oblivion Stone, Glimpse the
Unthinkable, Lotus Cobra, Magus of the Moon, Bloodghast, Thoughtseize,
Flusterstorm, Ancestral Vision, Cryptic Command, Auriok Champion, Serra
Ascendant…these were all very expensive cards. Granted, a lot of
them came way down in price once the set was actually released, but it’s a
significantly more inspiring crop than we got in Masters 25.

The Masters 25 rares are much more in line with the two Modern Masters sets, but these numbers hide a couple of important
differences. First, don’t forget that Modern Masters 2015 had a
murderer’s row of excellent mythic rares; unless you pulled Comet Storm,
you were probably snagging at least a $40 card. Modern Masers 2017
arguably had a worse overall pool of rares, but those sins were forgiven
thanks to the inclusion of the Zendikar fetchlands, all of which
immediately rebounded well past their pre-order prices.

Rare Hit Rate: 18.8%

  • 3.8% better than MM17 (15%)
  • 9.2% worse than Iconic Masters (28%)
  • 3.8% better than MM15 (15%)

The two Modern Masters sets each contained eight $15+ rares. Masters 25 has ten of them. Not much to see here, other than the
fact that Iconic Masters did a pretty good job of spreading the
love around.

Significant Commons and Uncommons

First, let’s look at the downgrades:

From Rare to Uncommon:

None of these cards are all that interesting, though Promise of Bunrei was
well above bulk and I’ve always found people interested in Undead
Gladiator. Not much to see here.

From Rare to Common:

Again, there’s not much that’s financially relevant, but it’s cool to see
Savannah Lions at common. I remember being gobsmacked that this was a rare
when I first started playing Magic, and I quickly realized why. Well, now
it’s actually a common!

All right, let’s quit wasting time and take a look at some uncommons that
are actually relevant to our purposes:

I’m writing this article before SCG has listed their pre-order prices for
all of Friday’s previews, so chances are a few of these cards (Street
Wrath, Utopia Sprawl) will be a lot cheaper once you actually go to order
your copies. As with most sets, pre-ordering the commons and uncommons you
think you’ll need is usually a good idea. People tend to overestimate how
often these cards will actually be opened, and the price will rise later as
a result. Snag your Ash Barrens and Simian Spirit Guides now.

Onto the commons:

Again, a few of these (Cultivate) weren’t priced yet when I wrote this
article, so they’ll probably end up a bit lower. This is a fairly decent
crop of commons, and I wouldn’t be shocked if the fact that Relentless Rats
is so cheap now means that we’ll see some Commander spikes for the other
good tribal Rats. I’ll probably snag a few sets of these other cards and
hold onto them for a while, too.

Overall Thoughts

I really want to like Masters 25, but it has a number of
significant problems that I can’t ignore.

The biggest problem is that it just doesn’t compare well to past Masters
sets. Modern Masters 2015 had a much better selection of mythic
rares and an overall higher value at release. Iconic Masters had a
slightly better selection of mythic rares, a much better selection of
rares, and an overall higher value at release.

Now, the current value of Masters 25 is roughly comparable to the
value of Modern Masters 2017 at its release, but the latter set
had an entirely different composition. Its key cards-Tarmogoyf, Liliana of
the Veil, Snapcaster Mage, the fetchlands-were all top-ten Modern staples
that held their value well. In comparison, Masters 25 is full of
low demand cards that are only expensive because they haven’t been
reprinted yet. Once the market is flooded with Rishadan Port, Imperial
Recruiter, the Eventide filter lands, and Ensnaring Bridge, none
of those cards are likely to return to their pre-reprint price points.

The optics around Masters 25 aren’t going to help much, either.
One of the reasons why Masters sets were so popular originally is that they
felt special. When you had to enter a box lottery (or fly to Las Vegas) for Modern Masters 2013, each pack was like a miniature treasure
chest. Even Modern Masters 2015 felt special: boxes were more
easily available, but you only had about three weeks to buy yours before
they were all gone forever.

Iconic Masters
languishing on shelves at Target and Wal-Mart finally disillusioned me to
the idea that Masters sets were supposed to feel special. Pair that with
the fact that this is the third Masters set in twelve months and you can
see why some people are so down on Masters 25. Say what you will
about artificial scarcity-the “Beanie Babies” model of deliberately
under-supplying the market to drive hype-it worked really well for Modern Masters 2013 and 2015. If WotC had kept the supply
for Masters 25 somewhat low (or at least kept it out of big box
stores!), it would have helped prevent the scarcity inclusions like
Rishadan Port and Imperial Recruiter from tanking as hard as they will.

The decision to continue along the Iconic Masters “format
agnostic” route also feels misguided. I’ve been critical about WotC’s
decision to ignore the economics of reprint equity for a while, because
after a certain point there won’t be much left to headline their $10/pack
reprint sets. The best answer is probably some combination of lowering pack
prices while decreasing the number of Masters sets printed as well as the
number of boxes printed. I’m sure that the executives at Hasbro won’t allow
them to do that, of course, but they need to find a solution to this
problem at some point.

Unfortunately, what they’re trying to do instead isn’t likely to work.
Pulling from a wider pool of rares doesn’t create a situation where more
people decide to drop $10/pack because there’s “something for everybody,”
it just leads to a world where nobody has a real incentive to open packs
because there are only a handful of cards that they actually want. This is
a big part of why Iconic Masters was so widely maligned despite
actually containing a bunch of really good rares.

It’s also unclear if Masters 25 is underwhelming because WotC is
becoming aware of the reprint equity issue or because they just don’t have
a good understanding of how the secondary market works. Masters 25
looks a lot better if you think that Rishadan Port is a $100 card, Imperial
Recruiter is a $200 card, and the Eventide lands are all worth
$30-$50. If they’d put in the equivalent value in top tier Modern staples,
people would be over the moon about this set. Perhaps they just don’t have
a good enough grasp of the financial side of the game.

And let’s be clear here: finance matters a lot when it
comes to Masters sets. WotC can talk about Limited environments all they
want, but they’re charging more than twice as much as a normal pack
precisely because of the secondary market value of the cards included in
these sets. I’m excited to play Masters 25, but I won’t be paying
MSRP for any booster packs this time around and I don’t recommend that you
do, either. Wait until SCG has a booster box sale at some point over the
summer. I suspect that this set’s financial future will mirror Iconic Masters more than any of the other Masters sets, which
should keep pack values fairly depressed.

If you want to buy the few Modern staples that were included in Masters 25 as singles, I’d wait about two weeks after the set hits
shelves. Since the overall value of the set is low, the true in-demand
staples should hold their value well. Chalice of the Void and Jace, the
Mind Sculptor are the best buys here, but you can apply that logic to cards
like Thalia, Guardian of Thraben and Rest in Peace, too.

If you need Imperial Recruiter, Rishadan Port, or one of the other cards
that has been expensive forever due to low supply, think about waiting a
little longer before you buy in. It’ll take a while before that price
memory is overwritten, but there should be some really great deals in July
or August.

This Week’s Trends

It was another fairly quiet week in Standard. Rekindling Phoenix and
Carnage Tyrant continue to climb, but neither gained more than about $2.
Scavenger Grounds and Earthshaker Khenra began to tick up in price as well,
likely due to the fact that neither are in the Challenger Decks and both
are really solid inclusions if you want to level those up. I expect both of
those cards to continue gaining value over the coming weeks.

On the other side, Kumena, Tyrant of Orazca continues to drop off as
Merfolk just aren’t finding a home anywhere near Standard’s top tier.
Hazoret the Fervent and Chandra, Torch of Defiance are also ticking down a
bit thanks to their inclusion in the aforementioned Challenger Decks.

There were some staggering gains in Modern this week now that we know what
key staples dodged a reprint in Masters 25. Liliana of the Veil
and Karn Liberated are each up more than $20, Snapcaster Mage and Mox Opal
are both up about $10. Raging Ravine, Dark Confidant, Celestial Colonnade,
Wurmcoil Engine, Cryptic Command, Cavern of Souls, and Steam Vents are all
climbing as well. Even Tireless Tracker is getting into the action now.

On the other side, all of the Masters 25 inclusions are dropping.
In Modern, that means Chalice of the Void, Rugged Prairie, Jace, the Mind
Sculptor, Ensnaring Bridge, Summoner’s Pact, and Vendilion Clique. Expect
these cards (with the possible exception of Jace) to keep losing value as Masters 25 goes live.

The Reserved List spikes keep on keeping on as well. Sliver Queen was the
latest to jump, doubling in price from $35 to $70. I’ll keep an eye on that
one, since most of the other spikes are from Legends, Arabian Nights, Legends, and Antiquities, all of
which have a lower supply than Stronghold. Sliver Queen certainly
is iconic, though, so I doubt it ends up back below $50.

#SCGDFW March 10-11!