The reviews are in, and Modern Masters 2017 is a mega-hit. Tarmogoyf, Snapcaster Mage, Liliana of the Veil, Damnation, Goblin Guide, all five enemy-colored fetchlands, Cavern of Souls,
Of course, “Modern Masters is sweet and you should go open some packs” is not the sort of hard-hitting journalism that you’ve come to expect from my weekly columns. So this week, we’ll be taking a deep dive into Modern Masters 2017 and see if we can peek below the surface-level hype. Just how good is Modern Masters 2017? At what point does it make sense to buy a box? Are any of the reprints undervalued? And what Modern staples are going to go up in price due to not appearing in Modern Masters? In the parlance of my Buzzfeed friends, the answer may surprise you!
Modern Masters 2017 by the Numbers
To me, there are two important metrics by which to measure the power level of a Masters set.
First, let’s talk about the set’s bust rate. This is a metric I developed that only measures one thing: how likely you are to be happy with the rare you pull. It’s a simple and easy to calculate stat where every rare and mythic above $10 (the pack’s retail price) counts as a hit, while every rare and mythic under $10 counts as a miss. While some foils and/or combinations of, say, a $4 rare and a $6 uncommon will make the real-world bust rate lower than what I’m including here, I prefer to think of those packs as happy bonuses instead of expected outcomes.
Bust rate is a poor metric for looking at value, because it doesn’t see a difference between a $12 rare and a $60 rare. Even still, I like it because it’s an important factor for people who are only planning on buying a few packs (or even a single box) of Modern Masters 2017. The lower the bust rate, the better your odds of opening a decent box.
For Modern Masters 2017, the bust rate is 79%. On average, then, one in five packs will have a rare or mythic worth $10 or more. Expecting a lower number? I was too. In fact, the bust rate in Modern Masters 2015 is just 76%. That’s right: you have a better chance of opening a $10+ rare in MM15 than in MM17. Crazy, right?
At this point, we need to discuss the more important of the two metrics: pack value. This is a pretty simple concept: if you were to open several thousand packs of Modern Masters 2017, what would be the average retail price of the cards inside? Let me spare you the math: sticking to the rare and mythic slot, a pack of Modern Masters 2017 averages out to $8.40.
Does this seem a tad low to you? It seems a tad low to me. Even if we add another couple of bucks for the commons, uncommons, and foil slot, a pack of Modern Masters 2017 isn’t worth considerably more than a pack of Modern Masters 2015. In fact, the average value of the rare and mythic slot in MM15 is a comparable $8.02—and that doesn’t include a few cards that are sold out and will probably be re-stocked at a higher price.
This tells me that some combination of the following things must be true:
1. Modern Masters 2017 isn’t as powerful a set as it seems.
2. The singles in Modern Masters 2017 are currently a little underpriced.
3. The market for Modern Masters 2017 cards is counting on the fact that there will be enough supply to keep the average pack price close to MSRP.
Let’s tackle these assertions one at a time. First off, yes, Modern Masters 2017 is a little (gasp!) overrated.
Don’t get me wrong; it’s a very, very good set. But early last week it seemed like there were no bad rares in there at all. Unfortunately, the last few days of Preview Week gave us a couple dozen bulk rares that brought down the average pack value by a significant margin. I still think that Modern Masters 2017 is a better set than Modern Masters 2015, but the gap between the two is not as wide as you think.
I believe that there is some truth in the second conclusion as well. We’ll take a look at each card in depth, but my initial feeling is that some of the higher-end mythics and rares still have some room to drop in price, while a lot of the lower-level staples are currently being underpriced. For example, Death’s Shadow is a Tier 1 staple. It shouldn’t be selling below $10. All of the staple uncommons feel underpriced to me as well. There are some solid buying opportunities here for sure.
The verdict is still out on that third conclusion. I’ve heard reports of stores having access to many more boxes this time around, but a lot of that has to do with the lack of a Limited Grand Prix this time around. Grand Prix Las Vegas sucked a lot of Modern Masters product out of the market, and that has been reallocated to local game stores. The truth is that we won’t know how heavily this product was printed for several months. If a lot of it was made, these prices may not budge for several years. If the print run was smaller, they could end up rising much sooner.
Adding it all up, I feel like buying the singles you want is a much better idea that purchasing sealed product at MSRP. Best case, the product is under-printed, the cards are undervalued, and your purchase looks prescient. Worst case, your staples are pretty close to their floor already and don’t have much more room to fall. Buying packs of the set to draft is fine, but I would try to stick below the $200 mark if you’re just looking to crack the boxes for value.
It’s also worth taking a moment to discuss the composition of Modern Masters 2017. We have three of these sets now, and some trends have emerged. Most interestingly, we still haven’t seen a lot of the major rares and mythics from the first two Modern Masters sets again. Tarmogoyf is the only card to be printed in all three, and a few other staples (Cryptic Command, Dark Confidant, Vendilion Clique) were in two. But there was a lot more overlap between the first Modern Masters and the second than between the second and the third. More interestingly, there wasn’t as much overlap between the first Modern Masters and the third as I had expected.
Is this a pattern? At what point are we going to see Engineered Explosives, Doubling Season, etc. again? I don’t know. But it does seem like WotC wants these cards to be exciting again before they’re reprinted, so the delay (so far) is five years and counting. If you want any of the cards in Modern Masters 2017, get them at some point this summer. Most of them probably won’t return until sometime in the 2020s.
Set review time? Set review time.
Modern Masters 2017 Set Review
White usually gets one relevant mythic in these sets, and MM17 is no exception. Even though I had predicted Avacyn, Angel of Hope and Archangel of Thune, Linvala, Keeper of Silence was more expensive than either of those cards. Scarcity played a major part in that price, though, and I suspect she’ll end up closer to $12-$15 a couple of months from now. Entreat the Angels is a decent casual card, and it should stay close to $3.
- Ranger of Eos – $2.99
- Restoration Angel – $2.99
- Stony Silence – $2.99
- Terminus – $1.99
- Seance – $0.49
- Blade Splicer – $0.49
At any rate, I like buying Stony Silence at $3. It’s played in the sideboard of almost every Modern deck that can cast it, and I can’t imagine that changes any time soon. It has the lowest floor out of all these cards by a wide margin.
White Commons and Uncommons:
Remember: You’ll only open one copy of Path to Exile in every 1.5 boxes or so. No matter how many times that card is reprinted, it always ends up at $10 eventually. Grabbing a few copies at $6 if you don’t have them is totally fine.
- Auriok Champion – $26.99
- Archangel of Thune – $21.99
- Runed Halo – $16.99
- Leyline of Sanctity – $15.99
- Thalia, Guardian of Thraben – $8.99
- Rest in Peace – $6.99
- Kor Firewalker – $0.99
Thalia, Guardian of Thraben is probably the biggest miss in terms of cards I expected would show up but did not. It sees enough play to end up over $10. Kor Firewalker sees a surprising amount of Modern play, considering it’s just a $1 card. If you’re looking for a cheap spec flier, you could do worse—especially now that Goblin Guide is a whole lot more affordable. Rest in Peace is a crucial sideboard card, and it has already begun to spike toward $8.
I had assumed that Snapcaster Mage would show up at rare, and Temporal Mastery wasn’t on my radar as a potential reprint—WotC hasn’t printed a Time Warp variant in quite some time. At any rate, Snapcaster Mage will probably settle in around $30 with the potential for future growth if the metagame moves toward blue. Temporal Mastery will end up at $5 eventually, just like every other mediocre Time Warp.
- Venser, Shaper Savant – $9.99
- Gifts Ungiven – $3.99
- Cyclonic Rift – $3.99
- Phantasmal Image – $2.99
- Deadeye Navigator – $0.49
- Cackling Counterpart – $0.49
Venser is a great reprint. It’s not the biggest Modern card, but it’s so good in Cube and Commander that the price should stay in the $8-$10 range. Cyclonic Rift is another card with a crazy amount of casual demand. It’s got room to rise over the long haul, and I’d grab a few at $4.
Blue Commons and Uncommons:
Buy a set of Serum Visions as soon as you can. They’re played enough to warrant the price tag, and again, uncommons in these sets are scarcer than you think.
- Ancestral Vision – $54.99
- Pact of Negation – $37.99
- Vendilion Clique – $29.99
- Cryptic Command – $24.99
- Consecrated Sphinx – $19.99
- Omniscience – $19.99
- Master Transmuter – $19.99
- Glen Elendra Archmage – $14.99
- Master of the Pearl Trident – $5.99
- Lord of Atlantis – $4.99
- Thought Scour – $0.69
The big miss here is Ancestral Vision, which I had assumed would be reprinted. Whoops! It’s a good thing the card doesn’t see more play, because it’s already past $60 and rising. I’d also grab a few copies of Thought Scour, which sees more play than its sub-$1 price tag belies. The Merfolk are interesting if the block after Amonkhet is indeed Atlantis-themed.
Nice—I went two for two with my predictions here! Granted, Liliana of the Veil was one of those cards we had all assumed would show up, but it’s still great to see her back. $70 is pretty close to the high end of where had expected her to land. You should be able to grab her closer to $50 at some point, though she shouldn’t dip lower than that. Griselbrand would be a sexier spec if it weren’t banned in Commander. Unfortunately, that restriction should keep it in the $5-$10 range for a while.
- Damnation – $34.99
- Death’s Shadow – $7.99
- Desecration Demon – $0.49
- Extractor Demon – $0.49
- Mind Shatter – $0.49
- Sever the Bloodline – $0.49
I don’t love seeing four bulk rares in such a crucial Modern color, but I can’t complain—we’ve needed a Damnation reprint for so long that I still won’t fully believe it until I have a copy in my hands. $35 is still a bit high, though—Damnation is great in Commander, but it’s mostly a one-of or sideboard card in Modern. I’d look to buy in around $22-$25.
On the other hand, Death’s Shadow is underpriced at $8. It’s a Tier 1 deck in Modern right now, and the price was climbing past $20 before the reprint hit. $8 seems like the floor for this card as long as the metagame doesn’t shift considerably or a key piece is banned.
Black Commons and Uncommons:
Wow wow wow! Once Inquisition of Kozilek was shifted up to rare for Conspiracy: Take the Crown, I had assumed it was never going to be printed at uncommon again. As with the other uncommons on this list, I’m in for a set at current retail. $5 seems like the absolute floor on this card right now.
- Dark Confidant – $44.99
- Bitterblossom – $29.99
- Goryo’s Vengeance – $29.99
- Mikaeus, the Unhallowed – $19.99
- Leyline of the Void – $17.99
- Bloodghast – $15.99
- Surgical Extraction – $14.99
- Living End – $7.99
- Dismember – $2.49
- Street Wraith – $2.49
- Vault Skirge – $0.49
No real surprises here. Dark Confidant appeared in the last two Modern Masters sets, and Bitterblossom doesn’t really see that much play. Goryo’s Vengeance is likely to spike—there just wasn’t all that much Betrayers of Kamigawa, and it’s a hard card to reprint. Surgical Extraction sees a ton of play, and it was already on the rise before this; expect it to end up around $25. I’d also grab sets of Dismember, Street Wraith, and Vault Skirge before they start to climb as well.
Meh. Red always has the weakest mythics in Modern Masters (it’s not the best color in Modern), and that doesn’t change in the 2017 Edition. Past in Flames is a very cool card, though, and it’ll end up in the $5-$8 range again someday. Grab a set at some point soon.
- Blood Moon – $29.99
- Goblin Guide – $19.99
- Pyromancer Ascension – $1.99
- Hellrider – $0.49
- Mizzium Mortars – $0.49
- Zealous Conscripts – $0.49
Red’s rares more than makes up for its mythics. I had predicted a Goblin Guide and Blood Moon reprint, but I’m still a bit shocked to see them both here. I’d be looking to buy Blood Moons around $20 and Goblin Guides at $12-$15.
Red Commons and Uncommons:
- Through the Breach – $49.99
- Magus of the Moon – $24.99
- Koth of the Hammer – $14.99
- Vexing Devil – $9.99
Boom// Bust– $8.99
- Simian Spirit Guide – $6.99
- Greater Gargadon – $5.99
- Lava Spike – $3.99
- Lightning Bolt – $3.49
- Rift Bolt – $1.99
- Tarfire – $0.99
- Searing Blaze – $0.99
- Galvanic Blast – $0.75
Much like Goryo’s Vengeance, Through the Breach is difficult to print and will likely keep getting more expensive. The card on this list that I had most expected to be reprinted is Simian Spirit Guide, which makes me wonder if it’s been on the cusp of being banned for a while now. Expect that to end up well over $10 regardless.
It’s also worth noting that Eidolon of the Great Revel, which wasn’t eligible to be reprinted in Modern Masters 2017, is experiencing a price surge thanks to the Goblin Guide reprint making Modern Burn a much cheaper deck to build. Burn’s key commons and uncommons may not spike quite so soon, but several of them are four-ofs in the same deck, and if the demand is real (as I suspect it is), they could be next to pop.
Hey, another color where I went two for two with my predictions! Tarmogoyf could end up as low as $60-$70 for a while, but it still sees a ton of play in Modern and that should keep its floor pretty high. I’m not buying in at $90, but it’s not an unreasonable price, either. Craterhoof Behemoth is better in Commander (and Legacy Elves), and I expect it to end up around $7-$8.
- Scavenging Ooze – $2.99
- Thragtusk – $1.99
- Primal Command – $0.99
- Summoning Trap – $0.75
- Call of the Herd – $0.49
- Ulvenwald Tracker – $0.49
As good as green’s mythic rares are, the non-mythic rares are decidedly meh. Scavenging Ooze actually sees a ton of Modern play, and I’d grab a set at $3 retail—it’s a bargain. The rest are likely to stick around the $1 mark for quite a while, though.
Green Commons and Uncommons:
Might of Old Krosa is a better rip than most of the rares, and it’s a much-needed reprint for Infect. At $3, it’s fairly priced. Harmonize gets yet another reprint, and at this point I can’t imagine it ever ending up above $1 again.
- Doubling Season – $69.99
- Noble Hierarch – $69.99
- Scapeshift – $44.99
- Bloom Tender – $37.99
- Azusa, Lost but Seeking – $24.99
- Vorinclex, Voice of Hunger – $24.99
- Mana Reflection – $19.99
- Life from the Loam – $19.99
- Summoner’s Pact – $19.99
- Oracle of Mul Daya – $19.99
- Seedborn Muse – $19.99
- Tooth and Nail – $15.99
- Fauna Shaman – $11.99
- Primeval Titan – $11.99
- Obstinate Baloth – $5.99
- Birds of Paradise – $5.99
- Ancient Stirrings – $4.99
- Eternal Witness – $4.49
- Wild Nacatl – $2.49
There were a lot of green rares that could have shown up here. I don’t think anyone expected that Noble Hierarch would be back so soon, but Doubling Season needs another printing ASAP. Both of those cards are still on their way up. Ancient Stirrings is heading that way as well.
Voice of Resurgence is a nice card, and it’s a solid reprint even though it had been expected. $12 is on the low end of where it should be, considering the amount of play it sees, and I’m fine buying it at current retail. It will probably end up closer to $15. The other three cards here are mostly irrelevant, though.
- Abrupt Decay – $4.99
- Zur the Enchanter – $2.99
- Falkenrath Aristocrat – $0.99
- Niv-Mizzet, Dracogenius – $0.99
- Obzedat, Ghost Council – $0.99
- Boros Reckoner – $0.99
- Wort, the Raidmother – $0.99
- Advent of the Wurm – $0.49
- Aethermage’s Touch – $0.49
- Broodmate Dragon – $0.49
- Cruel Ultimatum – $0.49
- Evil Twin – $0.49
- Fiery Justice – $0.49
- Simic Sky Swallower – $0.49
- Stoic Angel – $0.49
Woof. 15 multicolored rares, and I’d be happy opening one of them. I guess I know what packs I’m going to be opening in my draft while everyone else is cracking Tarmogoyfs and fetchlands!
In all seriousness, Abrupt Decay feels like a steal at $5. It’s not flashy, but it’s one of the top twenty or 25 most-played cards in the whole format. Grab your set now.
Multicolored Commons and Uncommons:
Get your set of Terminates now. $1 is quite low, and the card is an uncommon in Modern Masters 2017. On the other hand, Burning-Tree Emissary has been downgraded to common and should be readily available at $0.50-$1 for at least the next year.
- Sliver Legion – $39.99
- Glimpse the Unthinkable – $34.99
- Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas – $21.99
- Fulminator Mage – $19.99
- Maelstrom Pulse – $17.99
- Gaddock Teeg – $17.99
- Huntmaster of the Fells – $9.99
- Kitchen Finks – $9.99
- Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker – $8.99
- Knight of the Reliquary – $8.99
- Lightning Helix – $5.99
- Boros Charm – $1.99
Fulminator Mage would have been nice, but it was just printed in Modern Masters 2015, and (Tarmogoyf excepted) it seems like WotC has been good about not printing the key cards from one Masters set directly in the next. Expect Fulminator Mage to end up around $30 this summer.
Nicol Bolas, Planeswalker is an interesting one. I expect that Amonkhet will have a new version of Bolas, which means that the existing one could surge to $20 or more based on casual demand. It’s a risky spec, though, because it could show up in any supplemental product and fall back to $2 or $3.
Artifact and Land Mythics:
- Cavern of Souls – $34.99
We’re ending with a sweet one. If Cavern of Souls had been printed at rare, it might end up back in the $15-$20 range. At mythic, both Modern and casual demand should keep it close to $30.
Artifact and Land Rares:
- Scalding Tarn – $44.99
- Verdant Catacombs – $39.99
- Arid Mesa – $34.99
- Misty Rainforest – $34.99
- Marsh Flats – $29.99
- Damping Matrix – $0.49
- Grafdigger’s Cage – $3.99
- Basilisk Collar – $5.99
Ah, the main event. I can’t imagine the enemy fetchlands fall too much farther than this—they might drop another few bucks, but most people who open these are going to keep them. Even the Commander crowd loves the crap out of fetchlands. I’d wait until about a week or two after the set drops (when supply is the highest) and then trade for as many of these as you can.
I also love Basilisk Collar and Grafdigger’s Cage at current retail. They’re both Tier 1 format staples (Basilisk Collar being the most recent—what a prescient reprint!) and thus are pretty close to their price floor.
- Crucible of Worlds – $69.99
- Chalice of the Void – $69.99
- Horizon Canopy – $69.99
- Karn Liberated – $59.99
- Mox Opal – $59.99
- Engineered Explosives – $59.99
- Emrakul, the Aeons Torn – $54.99
- Ensnaring Bridge – $49.99
- Grove of the Burnwillows – $49.99
- Arcbound Ravager – $44.99
- Aether Vial – $39.99
- Mishra’s Bauble – $34.99
- Blightsteel Colossus – $34.99
- Flagstones of Trokair – $19.99
- Inkmoth Nexus – $25.99
- Celestial Colonnade – $23.99
- Spellskite – $22.99
- Blackcleave Cliffs – $22.99
- Oblivion Stone – $22.99
- Creeping Tar Pit – $19.99
- Batterskull – $18.99
- Glimmervoid – $26.99
- Eldrazi Temple – $9.99
- Steel Overseer – $9.99
- Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle – $7.99
- Expedition Map – $2.49
Modern Masters 2017 was light on the artifacts, so this list is pretty long. The good news is that a lot of these cards were recently printed as either Expeditions or Inventions, which has kept the prices from shooting into the stratosphere. I also suspect that Modern Masters 2019—is it too early to speculate on that set yet?—will include a lot of the key artifacts that the original set gave us back in 2013.
At any rate, these key cards will likely keep rising in price between now and then. Mishra’s Bauble already saw a crazy price surge, and you can’t even find them for $35(!) now.
This Week’s Trends
Not a lot of movement in Standard this week. Traverse the Ulvenwald is up a bit, and I’m a buyer at current retail—it sees a lot of play in both Standard and Modern, which gives it a very low floor. The other key G/B cards are ticking up a little as well. Don’t forget: we get another Banned and Restricted announcement on March 13th, which is a week from today. I bet WotC messes with the format again.
A lot of Modern cards have shot up in price thanks to Modern Masters 2017. Here’s the list so far:
Minor gains (10-30%): Chalice of the Void, Noble Hierarch, Through the Breach, Doubling Season, Horizon Canopy, Engineered Explosives, Ancestral Vision, Mox Opal, Crucible of Worlds, Dark Confidant, Scapeshift, Brushland, Fulminator Mage, Ancient Stirrings, Lotus Bloom.
Expect this list to keep growing over the next couple of months as new people get into Modern via Modern Masters 2017. In fact, I’d be surprised if several more cards haven’t spiked between when I’m writing this (Saturday afternoon) and when it goes live. If you think you’ve got a read on something, act fast. All of the cards on my omissions lists are solid buys right now. The more play a given card sees in Modern, the better.
Over in the casual world, Carpet of Flowers is sold out at $8 and will probably be restocked closer to $15. It’s got some Legacy applications as well, but it’s mostly a Commander card that seems quite difficult to reprint. I expect the price to be pretty stable above $10.
Another weird spike this week? Former bulk rare Rite of Passage. It’s pretty cute with Walking Ballista, especially when paired with Hardened Scales. Fish these out of your bulk and sell into the hype.