The Kitchen Table #208 – Masters and Prismatic

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I’m fond of Lorwyn. I think it’s a fine set. However, there is only so much I want to write on it before I get bored. Three consecutive weeks of pouring over the Lorwyn spoiler and then the draft overview I gave concerning six Lorwyn rare drafts. Lorwyn ain’t that exciting. I am ready to move onto new topics for a little while, at least. Today, let’s do something completely different.

I’m fond of Lorwyn. I think it’s a fine set. However, there is only so much I want to write on it before I get bored. Three consecutive weeks of pouring over the Lorwyn spoiler and then the draft overview I gave concerning six Lorwyn rare drafts. Lorwyn ain’t that exciting. I am ready to move onto new topics for a little while, at least. Today, let’s do something completely different.

Welcome to Magic: the Electronic. In this world, there are a lot of casual formats that have official status from Wizards. One format is based on Five Color. You might know it as Prismatic. I enjoy playing Prismatic. In fact, the day before I wrote this article, I played six games (and won five).

Just recently, Wizards announced that Masters Edition was going off sale in January. Hmm.

I have a long standing history of doing set reviews for Five Color over the years. Why not do a set review for Masters Edition and Prismatic before it leaves the air? It seems like an obvious idea. I wish I had thought of it before when Mirage and Visions were released, because I could have done this then.

The online market for cards is very different than the real life market. The market is almost exclusively driven by tournaments. Only the best tournament cards that everybody wants have value. There are several goods reasons for this, but the best one is what I call the Birds of Paradise syndrome.

Of all of the rares in Magic, BoPs are the best at getting played in decks. I play Birds everywhere. In real life, as I have bought booster packs and boxes of Ravnica and the base sets, I have opened up a lot of Birds. I have twelve. No rare makes it into as many decks. Birds make it into more decks than dual lands. There is a legitimate need for a maximum number of Birds. As a result, I do not trade any extra Birds I acquire, because they are useful to me.

Online, however, once I have four, I cannot use any extras. Four BoPs can be placed in every single deck I own. As a result, if I get another in a 10th edition draft, I can immediately trade or sell the extra BoP. There’s no need to hoard cards.

That means the market gets more cards because of the Birds of Paradise Syndrome. More supply drives down price when the demand stays the same (see your local Econ class for details). Therefore, it is only the cards with a lot of demand that actually have value.

As an example, Morphling, released as a promo card, is worth three and a half tickets (which cost a dollar each). Akroma the Red is a ticket and a quarter. Psi Blast is around one and a half tickets. These cards are not worth $3.50, $1.25 and $1.50 in real life. That’s the market, though.

You can find a rare bot with great rares like Oros and Sol’Kanar for a quarter each. Even Lightning Bolt is about fifty cents. Masters Edition has low value because the cards aren’t playable in most tournament formats.

You can play them in Online Vintage and the casual formats like Prismatic. That’s about it. This is great if you want to play casual online, because picking up some powerful cards is often quite cheap.

If you play Prismatic, then picking up the goods here in Masters Edition is a smart play. If you don’t play Prismatic, then why not? Some of the best cards, from Krosan Tusker and Sakura-Tribe Elder to Lightning Bolt and Rend Flesh, have little to no value. Sure, there are bombs like Deed, Spiritmonger, Fact or Fiction, the Rav Duals, and more around, but you don’t need them to compete.

Just yesterday I dropped Hibernation’s End on turn 5. I proceeded to get Birds, Elder, Civic Wayfinder, Ravenous Baloth, Spiritmonger (my only one), and Pristine Angel. I won the game with Hibernation’s End, a cheap rare from Coldsnap. That’s how much fun Prismatic is. You can win with the jank.

To sum up, Prismatic = yay. Alright, now let’s hit up the set review.

As a reminder, this set review will follow the path I use for my other set reviews. I will only mention those cards that have a significant impact on Prismatic, or may look like they do but don’t.

Unlike previous set reviews, I did the cards by color. Wizards has never released a traditionally ordered checklist or a sortable spoiler for Masters, probably because it is an online set. Therefore, the only order I can find is alphabetical. For this set review, the cards will be in alphabetical order, mixing colors. Ah well, them’s the breaks.

Masters Edition and Prismatic

Animate Dead – Prior to Visions getting printed online, if you wanted a basic Zombify effect, you had to pay a lot of life (Life/Death) or you had to pay at least four mana. Then Necromancy came along and it had some value for all of those reanimation decks. Your creature would be vulnerable to enchantment removal, but came out on turn three, not four. Now, with Animate Dead, you can drop the cost to two. Animate Dead is a very reasonable card, with the power loss and the enchantment weakness. Getting back Kokusho or Oros or a Plaguelord for two mana is a great deal.

Ankh of Mishra – This is tech in Prismatic. Prismatic games often play a lot of land in the early stages, before trading major cards until someone is left standing. In fact Prismatic duels often play like Five Color multiplayer games, just in duel form. Building a deck that requires only a small amount of mana and then packs these plus Zo-Zu would be a great way of hosing a lot of decks in the format.

Arcane Denial – This card sees a lot of play in real life aggro 5-C decks that want to splash cheap counter magic for the critical cards. Online, we have Mana Leak and Evasive Action, but this card has some value as well. The key reason to play this is not the card drawing part, but the cheap, splash able, hard counter part.

Armageddon – This is one of the key strategies in real life 250. Get some beaters out, then drop a Geddon and win. There’s no reason why this wouldn’t work online with effective beats like Isamaru, Savannah Lions, Blade of the Sixth Pride, Watchwolf and more all available. Like the Ankh, you are building your deck to take advantage of the weakness of the format: lands.

Ball Lightning – It’s not like Ball Lightning is that powerful or Groundbreaker is getting that much play, but this is a tool for the Red-heavy Prismatic deck, so I wanted to mention it briefly here.

Berserk – You can get four, and they make your aggro creatures pretty good. I actually think this is better for midrange or bigger creatures, however. Play FTK, then swing for four, I mean eight trample. Doubling creatures that already have some size is a solid way of getting a win.

Chains of Mephistopheles – This card shuts down any player from drawing a card outside of the normal one they get each turn. That includes you, but since you know that you are playing the Chains, you can build around it. From cycling cards to cantrips to cards like the Divining Top, players will naturally draw a lot of cards during the game, and this shuts them down.

Dakkon Blackblade – With all of the land that you want to be playing, isn’t Dakkon a good investment? Nope. He’s chump block city, with no evasive ability at all, not even trample. I don’t play many creatures that cost six mana, but if I did, they wouldn’t require four colored mana and be chump blockable.

Diminishing Returns – Now this is a perfect reprint for Prismatic. We don’t have Time Spiral, and Timetwister will never get reprinted online. We do have Diminishing Returns, which is the same thing, only you lose ten cards from your 250+ card stack for playing it. This is simply a magnificent reprint with a lot of value. From hosing graveyards to being a true draw seven card, this will do a lot. This is a power card.

Erg Raiders – These are a perfect card to play in an aggro Prismatic deck. 2/3, and you simply have to attack with them every turn. Classic cards from long ago make great reprints.

Eureka – It’s a combo card you can build around. From Darksteel Colossus to Mycosynth Lattice and the Forge, there are some combos that require expensive cards. Drop them all down with your Eureka.

Exile – For one less mana than Chastise, you can remove the creature from the game. It only works on non-White creatures, however. You still gain life, which is what you want. I have called this one of the best White removal spells of all time in previous articles, but I am unconvinced about its power online. There are less Darksteels and janky creatures getting played online. If that count increases, then Exile should get played. This is also a common online.

Force of Will – This is the banner card for Masters Edition. Force of Will is going for an expensive price as everybody wants their four for when they play Vintage… er… I mean Classic. In Prismatic, it does have some play value in Blue heavy decks, but otherwise, there are better cards out there for your decks.

Forcefield – This Vintage card is remarkable because it becomes almost like a colorless Circle of Protection, only you take one and it doesn’t stop burn at your head. It can give you enough time to dig for answers. This is a solid enough shield, but it doesn’t do anything to get you to win on its own, and it doesn’t even save you… it just delays the death count. It just doesn’t do enough for me.

Fyndhorn Elves – Now we have Llanowar Elves plus these guys plus Birds plus Elves of Deep Shadow plus Boreal Druid. We already had mana acceleration, so these aren’t major additions. They probably will have more of an impact in elf decks that want mana acceleration and run at 60 cards. By the way, why were these made druids and Llanowars were not? It is because a druid vouches for them in the flavor text? (Not everyone who serves the same goddess is going to be a druid, if that is the case)

Ghazban Ogre – Several other cards in the set are good if you play an aggro-oriented Prismatic deck. This fits fit into that strategy. There is always the worry that your opponent will steal this with early burn, but that rarely happens. Instead, you usually get the beater of your choice swinging for two on the second turn. These are the calculated risks that an aggro deck should be taking in order to win.

Giant Tortoise – They are a 1/4 for just two mana with the ability to get a hit in occasionally, unlike cards like Steel Wall. Still, I’d prefer my walls on turn 1 and my mana search on turn 2, which means my decks probably wouldn’t find a home for Mr. Tortoise. If you played him, I wouldn’t laugh at you because he does have value.

Goblin Grenade – With Lorwyn’s color bleeding and changelings, we probably have hit critical mass. You can now play cards like this in a Prismatic deck. I wouldn’t, but then again, I’m not you.

Hymn to Tourach – This is like reprinting Duress, except we already have Duress from 7th and they just printed Thoughtseize. It’s like reprinting Mind Twist then. No, this is better than Mind Twist – this sees actual play. I’d play these in any Prismatic deck that can handle the double Black mana cost.

Ice Storm – Attacking lands is good, and having a card in your mana color that does just that while also being splash able seems like a really good idea.

Ivory Tower – I mentioned earlier that not much happens in the early turns except for mana making in a lot of decks. That gives you plenty of time to have dropped an Ivory Tower and made a lot of life off it. With all of the card drawing, cantripping, cycling, land searching and more going on, you could easily be at 30+ by the time your opponent drops their first real creature.

Juzam Djinn – This is one of the few cards on all of Magic Online that has a value because of sentimental reasons. The Juzam is going for around $2.75 there. That’s very inflated because Plague Sliver, who is better than Juzam because he hoses opposing slivers and is playable in more formats like Standard, is worth $0.18 at the same bot where I found Juzam. Play Plague Sliver over this, but if you really want to swing with of the true icons of Magic, go ahead and pick up a few. $2.75 is a great deal cheaper than the cardboard price, and Prismatic is the place where you’d attack with him.

Lightning Bolt – What could I say about Lightning Bolt that hasn’t been said before. I remember people saying they sucked compared to Fireball back when I started playing, but no one says that anymore. I’ve even heard that other burn spells are better, like Firebolt. Still, for my money, nothing beats good ol’ rock, and Lightning Bolt is the rock of burn.

Lim-Dul’s Vault – Everybody seems to like this jank, but you don’t get to draw any cards. I don’t play Index, Eye Spy, or Tahngarth’s Glare for the same reason. I don’t know why so many players love this card, but it is crazy sometimes.

Mishra’s Factory – This card doesn’t make the colors of mana that you want, but last night I played against an opponent who played a ton of sweeping removal, and then a bunch of man lands. This fits that strategy perfectly. I’d prefer Treetop Village or something because that makes a color, but for the colorless lands, this comes second in beatingness behind Nantuko Village.

Moat – And it’s not even in Magus form anymore. This is a true winner in the “Don’t Mess With Me” sweepstakes. Now, if only we could get The Abyss. By the way, this card has a value around $2.50 online. Just saying.

Nevinyrral’s Disk – I know that the CIP tapped ability on this means that it doesn’t get the looks it used to. This is still a fine card, especially due to its colorless mana cost, which means no matter what colors you do or do not get in a given game, once you get to four, you can drop this. It has a significant value online for a card from this set ($3.50) so you know that others agree.

Phyrexian War Beast – This always fit into Sligh decks as a brilliant 3/4 for three mana. What keeps it down is the loss of a land when it dies, which is not nice in a mana hungry format like Magic Online.

Serendib Efreet – This is one of the banner cards of the set. The Serendib Efreet is a creature of great beatingness combining a large body with a splash able cost with the flyingness that all top notch beaters seem to have. This is great, get four, and play them, and be happy.

Sylvan Library – Lighting Bolt was a great reprint, but we have Incinerate and Firebolt. Serendib Efreet was great, but we have Moroii. Juzam Djinn was fine, but we have Plague Sliver. Winds of Change is nice but we have Whirlpool Warrior. There are not many cards given to us that we didn’t already have a good iteration of already.

We didn’t really have any cards on the level of Diminishing Returns. We also don’t really have anything like the amazingness that is Sylvan Library. This is simply the third best enchantment in my own 250 decks, with only Mirari’s Wake and Future Sight arguably better. It’s cheap, in a color you usually emphasize, and it works brilliantly. You want these, and you want four of them, even more than the aforementioned Efreet.

Tawnos’s Coffin – I’ve expounded on the tremendous value of the Coffin before. It is a tiny bit too slow for most decks in Prismatic, which is a touch faster than multiplayer Five Color, but it is still playable. There are none in my decks, but I’d run it if I had more 187 creatures.

Thawing Glaciers – It may be a bit slow, but it gets you every basic land you need, and you will have time to activate it.

Winter Orb – This is arguably the single best tempo card ever made, dueling it out with Armageddon and Stasis for the top spot. It works in Prismatic, Five Color, 60-card decks, whatever. You can play it with any color of mana you desire, and it will punish mana-hungry decks with ease. This is easily a strong card.

Zuran Orb – With all of the cheap artifact search like Trinket Mage, the classic ZOrb does have some playability. In a format that tries to get a lot of lands into play, you have a lot of fodder for this, which increases its value. I’d say this is a better card here than it ever was in Vintage when it was restricted.

Well, there we are at the end of another article. What do I think about Masters overall?

It does have a lot of disappointing cards in it. I don’t think anyone was hoping for a reprint of Mesa Pegasus or Knights of Thorn. Virtually every reprint has value somewhere. Thorn Thallid’s reprint may not mean much to us, but to a player who loves Thallids from Time Spiral block, it’s a great card. You know Goblin Wizard will see play in Lorwyn-esque goblin decks.

On the other hand, the amount of sheer good cards means that this set has significant play value. Sylvan Library? Serendib Efreet? Diminishing Returns? Ivory Tower? Armageddon? Winter Orb? Moat? Lightning Bolt? They were never going to print cards as good as these in future sets, so it is nice to see them here.

This set has a lot of value from common to rare, and you’ll find a lot of these cards making it to your Prismatic decks. If you don’t play them, your opponents will, so at least know what is out there.

This is good stuff overall, and the good cards outbalance the bad cards, giving this a hearty thumbs up. Buy it before it goes offline in January.

I can’t wait for Masters Edition II!

Until later,

Abe Sargent