Talk of Eternal Masters hasn’t died completely, though. It’s just plausible enough to get excited about, WotC hasn’t announced a supplemental set in 2016, and boy, wouldn’t it just be neato if this thing was actually real?
After getting into the nuts and bolts of Modern last week, I’d like to have a little bit of fun today. How plausible is it that Eternal Masters is a real set that could actually come out this year? What might its release mean for Legacy and Vintage? What cards could the set contain? Let’s talk this one through and find out.
Eternal Masters 2016?
Let’s start by looking at a couple of sets whose releases might bear some passing resemblance to the rumored Eternal Masters launch: Modern Masters and Modern Masters 2015.
Modern Masters was released on June 7, 2013. Modern Masters 2015 was released on May 22, 2015. Both sets were announced early; the first Modern Masters set was announced on October 21, 2012, and Modern Masters 2015 was announced on December 8, 2014. That’s a minimum of six months between announcement and release. If Eternal Masters were announced today, this trend would dictate that it will come no earlier than mid-August.
Supplemental sets are sometimes announced much closer to their release date, though. Conspiracy was revealed on February 14, 2014 and released on June 6, 2014. This article will run on February 15, 2016, so it’s possible that we’ll know about an upcoming supplemental set very soon. If it was something as earth-shattering as Eternal Masters, though, why not announce it during the Pro Tour last weekend? Or during the World Magic Cup back in December? Things just don’t add up for an early June release.
Of course, the set release cycle has changed radically since both Modern Masters sets were announced. The block structure is different now, and it’s unclear when a supplemental set might slot in. Dragons of Tarkir was released on March 21, MM15 on May 22, and Origins on July 17. This year, we know that Shadows over Innistrad will be out on April 2, and Eldritch Moon on July 16. Is there still room for a supplemental set to come out in, say, the first week of June? I’m not sure.
This is all okay, though. The initial Eternal Masters rumor claims that it will be a “fall special set,” so perhaps we’re just looking in the wrong place. Let’s take a gander at the 2016 Grand Prix schedule. The Modern Masters 2015 release was a tad obvious because the “mystery format” triple Grand Prix weekend was like a big neon sign spelling out the phrase “MODERN M_STERS.” There are no mystery format GPs on the schedule in 2016, but could one of the Limited GP weekends be an Eternal Masters hype party in disguise?
There is actually a triple-GP Limited weekend on the schedule this year: July 29-31 has Limited events in Montreal, Stockholm, and Sydney. After that, we’d be looking at October 7-9 in Atlanta and London as the next most likely landing spot. I suppose it’s possible that either of these events could be Eternal Masters Grand Prix, but both tournaments immediately follow the release of a major new expansion that we actually do know about. Furthermore, that triple-GP weekend doesn’t even have a tournament scheduled in the USA.
If Eternal Masters is released and linked to a Grand Prix, it’s probably not on the schedule yet. The empty weekends of June 18 and August 20 seem to hold the most promise, though we’d already be looking at a very short lead time for a major Grand Prix. Higher-ups in the Tournament Organizer world would already have to have extensive knowledge about this, I would suspect.
If we’re to believe that Eternal Masters will be announced and released in 2016, then, we have to believe one of the following two scenarios:
1) Wizards of the Coast is not treating Eternal Masters like a big Modern Masters-style event set, but more like Conspiracy. There won’t be a major GP and there won’t be months of hype leading up to its release.
2) Wizards of the Coast is on the verge of making a crazy, secret announcement about a long-awaited set and its massive tournament in a way that completely breaks with how they’ve released these things in the past.
Either scenario is technically possible—we’re not in crazy-town yet—but if an Eternal Masters announcement does rock our world at some point soon, don’t feel bad for not having seen it coming. As of now, the signs just aren’t there.
Vintage? Legacy? Eternal?
One of the most exciting parts of the Eternal Masters rumor is the possibility that it might herald a brand new way to play Magic. With Modern feeling like a rotating format due to the heavy use of bans and the emergence of the Eldrazi menace, I can see why people are drawn to the idea of some nebulous new concept called “Eternal.”
What would Eternal actually be, though? The common answer of “It’s Legacy but without any Reserved List cards!” can’t be the answer. I’ll show you why.
Here’s a stack of cards from Urza’s Saga. Which of these are on the Reserved List and which are not?
Give up? You probably should.
These are on the Reserved List:
These are not:
There is no rhyme or reason to this. It’s not like all the broken cards are on the list and all the fair cards aren’t. It’s not even like the cards that were powerful back in 1998 are on the list and all the cards that weren’t broken yet are not. It’s just a bunch of dartboard throwing for several sets in a row. No way is the WotC of 2016 going to release a brand new format with a finicky, counterintuitive banned list that draws attention to the Reserved List in such an obvious and frustrating way.
So what else might Eternal be?
Well, there are only a few Reserved List cards actually seeing a lot of play in Legacy right now. Eternal could be a Legacy style format that skirts the Reserved List via some targeted and judicious banning: the Revised dual lands, Gaea’s Cradle, The Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale, etc. I doubt this would be distinct enough from the Legacy metagame to require a brand new format with a brand new name, though.
This fix also deliberately uses the Reserved List as justification for banning cards while simultaneously making a bet that none of the second-tier Reserved List cards will end up being too broken or expensive going forward. It’s a possible solution, I suppose, but it feels super-inelegant and is not at all in line with how WotC likes to solve problems these days.
Moving on, Eternal could be a format with a line drawn somewhere between Legacy and Modern. If you want to take the Reserved List out of the equation entirely, you could start the cutoff in early 1999, which gives you the complete Masques, Invasion, Odyssey, and Onslaught blocks as well as Sixth and Seventh Edition. This would be an interesting format, but would it really be all that different from Modern? Are there enough playable Eternal cards in this set to justify a whole new format, new reprint expansions, etc., etc.? I highly doubt it.
You could also go back a bit further, but you’d have to make some Reserved List-related bans. Starting with Ice Age seems good, because you avoid the trickiness that comes with the crazy Legends rares and the Revised dual lands.
Which cards would you have to ban for Reserved List purposes in an Ice Age-forward format? I’d at least take a look at the following cards:
Some of these cards could probably survive in Eternal just fine, and I’m probably missing a couple of obvious Reserved List rares that would have to go, too, but at least we’re talking about a banned list that can fit on a single sheet of paper and that only contains cards that can be wink-wink justified for power level reasons. And we’re talking about a real format that feels distinctly different from both Legacy and Modern. What might Eternal look like? This is where I’d start.
Let’s not abandon Occam’s Razor entirely, though. If Eternal Masters is real, the most likely is that it’s a Modern Masters-style set that reprints cards for Vintage and Legacy players. I assume we’d be looking at the pool of sets between Alpha and Scourge (minus the Reserved List cards, of course) as well as Conspiracy and the Commander sets for our roster of potential reprints.
How interesting would a set like that actually be, though? Could WotC reprint enough powerful cards to actually make Vintage and Legacy more accessible?
Wishing For Staples
Modern Masters 2015 had fifteen mythic rares, 53 rares, 80 uncommons, and 101 commons. Presumably, Eternal Masters would be crafted in a similar way. There were no mythic rares prior to Shards of Alara, though, so all fifteen mythics would either have to have their rarity upped or else come from Conspiracy or a Commander set. I can’t imagine that being a problem for the set’s developers, but it does make predicting the eventual list a lot more difficult. Almost any powerful card from Magic’s first decade can be justified at mythic rare, including uncommons like Force of Will and Wasteland.
Additionally, Eternal Masters kind of implies some Vintage-centric cards, right? Otherwise, wouldn’t you just call the set Legacy Masters? I’m not sure what that actually means for the card list—Mana Drain seems unlikely directly following the Judge foil release, for example—but it’s worth keeping in mind as we try to figure this out.
The initial rumor claims that the set will have Force of Will, Wasteland, Rishadan Port, Stoneforge Mystic, and the Zendikar fetchlands. This already makes me skeptical. The first three are obvious inclusions, and I can get behind Stoneforge Mystic since it’s banned in Modern, but the Zendikar fetchlands? Why are we just printing some of the most popular Modern staples in this set? No, if Eternal Masters is real, it shouldn’t have any Modern-legal cards in it. At the very least, it shouldn’t have any cards that are among the most-played in Modern. That’s what Modern Masters 2017 is for!
What might Eternal Masters contain, though? What Vintage, Legacy, and older causal cards should at least make the shortlist for inclusion in a set like this? Remember that abolishing the Reserved List is not on the table. I’ve written about that at length over the past several years, and I won’t be getting into it again here. Once we eliminate those cards, here’s what I’ve come up with:
Is this a significant enough core for a new reprint expansion? I’m not so sure. What would the mythic rares look like? There are some good options in blue, red, and green, but very little in white and black. Most of these cards have been printed in the past few years as promotional foils of some kind or another. The most exciting cards on here are the more recent staples that have been banned in Modern. Isn’t that a weird way to sell a set? Wouldn’t it be better to save these cards for Judge foils and Expedition-style giveaways?
Ultimately, the Eternal Masters rumors just feel bogus to me. It doesn’t make enough sense as a cohesive set, the idea of printing Modern-legal cards in the set while Modern Masters is still happening every two years doesn’t track, I don’t see how Wizards of the Coast goes about creating a new Eternal format that’s different enough from existing formats without removing the Reserved List, the set’s release timing doesn’t make sense, and the “leaker” has already been proven wrong about when the announcement would happen.
And yet, nothing here indicates that an Eternal Masters-style set couldn’t happen at some point in the future. If it does happen, though, I suspect that it will be designed to supplement existing Eternal formats (Legacy and Vintage) and that it’ll be heavy on the casual and Limited fodder similar to Modern Masters 2015. You’ll get Force of Will, but you’ll also get, like, Chub Toad and Entrails Feaster.
This means that the premier Legacy cards likely to be reprinted at mythic—Force of Will, Wasteland, etc.—would probably survive Eternal Masters with most of their value intact. In fact, increased player attention on these older formats would probably cause cards like Force of Will to actually increase in value. It would certainly spike the price of many Reserved List staples that have been languishing for a while as we’ve paid more attention to Standard and Modern. The top of that list? Revised dual lands.
The bottom line, then: if an Eternal Masters announcement comes down without introducing a new format, don’t worry about panic-selling any cards. Just go finish your set of blue duals before they go up.
This Week’s Trends
As you can imagine, Modern mages everywhere are lining up to figure out how to fight against the unstoppable might of the Eldrazi. It’s like the Battle for Zendikar storyline has invaded real life!
In his latest article, Brian Kibler recommends Ensnaring Bridge, Magus of the Moon, Wrath of God, Spreading Seas, and Valorous Stance as possible lines of attack. Everyone seems to be trying Ensnaring Bridge, and the card has spiked accordingly. Ditto Spreading Seas, which is up over a buck and foil copies are sold out everywhere.
His other potential answers are still flying under the radar, though, and we haven’t seen Magus or Wrath spikes yet. There could be some buying opportunities there if you can figure out a way to slot them into a reasonable deck.
Tom Ross also wrote about beating the Eldrazi this week, recommending Painter’s Servant as a way to shut down Eldrazi Temple and Eye of Ugin. Painter’s Servant saw a crazy spike during the last day of the Pro Tour, so you’ve already missed the boat there. He also talks about Intrepid Hero as tech out of the Kiki Chord decks, and that’s still a bulk rare. I wouldn’t mind having a foil or two kicking around.
There’s also been a lot of talk about Worship as a potential answer for the Eldrazi, and the Internet is sold out of the card at $10+. And if you’re going to play Worship, you’re going to need a deck that plays well with it. It appears as though the Chord of Calling deck featuring four copies of Archangel of Thune is the one most people are trying to build. In related news, Archangel of Thune is currently sold out at $21.99.
Ross and Kibler both talked about using G/W Midrange to beat the Eldrazi, and it’s true that Loxodon Smiter and Wilt-Leaf Liege play well against Reality Smasher. Might this be the answer? The community doesn’t seem to be fully onboard yet, and neither card has seen much of an increase in price so far. Keep your eye on winning decklists. G/W has been good before, and it might be good again very soon.
Want a find a totally different way to beat the Eldrazi? I’ve heard lots of good things about this brew:
Similar decks have popped up from time to time, causing cards like Phyrexian Unlife and Spoils of the Vault to jump a few dollars before settling back down again. Is this finally the time for the Phyrexian Unlife / Angel’s Grace decks to shine? It’s certainly possible. Both cards are sold out again, and it looks like their price spikes might stick around for a while.
Overall, we’re in a period of serious reaction right now. Every card that could conceivably match up well against the Eldrazi is seeing a spike as we clamor for answers. At some point, the champions will be separated from the pretenders and the cards that don’t fit well in the current metagame will drop back off again. For now, I highly recommend selling into the spikes and hedging your bets.
As for the Eldrazi deck itself, Gerry Thompson talked about adding Crucible of Worlds as a way to fight against Ghost Quarter in the mirror. Crucible is already one of the most expensive cards in Modern, but it could see even more upward movement if this turns out to be the correct way to approach the format.
Another card that I’ve heard multiple pros raving about as a mirror breaker of the non-Kiki variety? Endbringer. Expect that card to start showing up in most of the Modern Eldrazi lists going forward and plan accordingly.
Moving on, Legacy Leagues are coming to Magic Online! Unless Eternal Masters comes along to rattle our windows, expect Legacy prices on MTGO to rise across the board as the format becomes more accessible in digital form. If you want in, buy your staples soon.
Standard still seems like a backburner format for the moment, doesn’t it? Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy; Kolaghan’s Command; Collected Company; Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet; and Abbot of Keral Keep continue to trend upward but that’s been true for the past month or so. Meanwhile, most of the Eldrazi that spiked during the last day of the Pro Tour have begun dropping a little—Thought-Knot Seer, Reality Smasher, Eldrazi Mimic, and Matter Reshaper peaked near the beginning of last week and have been dropping ever since, likely a result of speculator copies hitting the market and fighting their way down to a comfortable equilibrium. If you want copies of these cards, I’d suggest waiting another week or two.