The Masterpieces You Need To Buy

The Masterpiece Series didn’t last long, but that makes the buying opportunities within it all the more valuable! Chas Andres gives his take on the underrated Expeditions, Inventions, and Invocations!

It can be easy to forget everything that’s happened during the short but
eventful history of the Masterpiece Series, so allow me to jog
your memory.

Back in 2015, Battle for Zendikar contained a special subset of
premium foil cards called Zendikar Expeditions. They were
vanishingly rare: about one in every 144 booster packs contained an
Expedition. The idea was to simulate the feel of the Priceless Treasures
campaign from the original Zendikar release, when old cards like
Black Lotus and Underground Sea were inserted into brand-new booster packs
of the set.

Players loved the Expeditions. It was, perhaps, the only thing about the
woeful Battle for Zendikar that most players loved. While it was
too late to add an Expedition-esque subset to Shadows over Innistrad, Wizards of the Coast immediately decided
to replicate their success and stuff it into both Kaladesh and Amonkhet blocks. They renamed it the Masterpiece Series
and told us that we’d be getting Masterpieces in every single set for the
foreseeable future.

Then something happened.

Well, it was a couple of somethings happened. First, Wizards of the Coast
radically re-imagined their release plans, going from a two-set block
system to a single-set block system. When that announcement dropped,
Wizards of the Coast admitted that they wouldn’t be able to design enough
cool Masterpieces for every single block going forward.

I wouldn’t be surprised if the tepid community response to the Amonkhet Invocations had something to do with the
pullback as well. Not only did the Invocation card frame feel like a first
draft, but there was very little thematic cohesion among the set’s spells.
Mark Rosewater admitted that their ideas dropped from, “Let’s do all the
iconic lands!” to “Let’s do all the iconic artifacts!” to “Huh… Amonkhet… maybe instants and sorceries?”

I also feel like Wizards of the Coast significantly shifted their approach
to reprints around this time and (naturally) didn’t make those changes
public knowledge. This pullback happened after Modern Masters 2017
was put to bed and before both Iconic Masters and Masters 25, and at this point I think we can safely say that there
was a shift in philosophy between those sets.

Quick aside:
I’ve long said that Wizards of the Coast either needs to print fewer Masters-style sets or make them worse, because if you print the
same 100 amazing Modern staples over and over again, they’ll quickly become
devalued to the point where nobody’s going to want to chase after them—or
any of your other expensive cards. My hope was that Wizards of the Coast
would simply pull back on the number of Masters sets released, but
they went the other way instead. Ah well.

Why does this affect that Masterpiece Series? Because if Wizards
of the Coast realized that they needed to save their extremely limited
reprint bullets for future Masters sets, why jam stuff like
Crucible of Worlds and Polluted Delta into Standard-legal boosters? Doing
so only makes sense if you’re sure that the Masterpieces are helping you
sell packs, but my guess is that something in the Kaladesh and Amonkhet sales figures told them that this wasn’t happening.

When Mark Rosewater told us that Masterpieces would only return in sets
where they made sense, I think we all sort of assumed that we’d get them in Dominaria. There’s no shortage of cool things you could include,
from old-bordered foils to iconic characters and places that couldn’t be
included in the “regular” set for flavor reasons. Dominaria doesn’t have
any Masterpieces, though, which begs the question: are they ever
coming back?

Since it’s only been two blocks since we’ve last seen them, it’s far too
early to say. Masterpieces could be back as early as September, or they
might never come back at all. If Wizards of the Coast only wants to release
them when they’ll make players excited enough to buy more boosters, I don’t
think there’s any way we get more than one set with Masterpieces each year.
Regardless, we’re not going to get them anywhere near as frequently as we
did in 2016 and 2017.

Which brings me—finally—to the main point of my article today.

Speculators have caught on to the fact that Masterpieces are likely to be a
lot more scarce going forward. Their value had been pretty flat
because…well, they didn’t really seem all that special when we were getting
40 or 50 of them every single block. It’s not like a Masterpiece Force of
Will is more powerful than an Eternal Masters Force of Will, so
the only reason to pay that premium is if you really love the new look or
you’re excited to show it off. The fewer Masterpieces there are, the more
impressive they are, and the more valuable they become.

To that end, almost every interesting Masterpiece has seen a jump in value
over the past couple of weeks. That’s going to make today’s discussion a
little more difficult than it would have been if I’d written this piece
back in March. For one, some of the retail prices I’ll be discussing are a
little outdated because SCG hasn’t re-stocked any Masterpieces at their new
price point. I’ll try to bring this up whenever it’s relevant.

Second, I hate telling people to buying into a trend after most of the easy
money has disappeared. There were some no-brainer buys here a couple of
weeks ago, and I wish I’d gotten to this article back when I first saw
these spikes occurring. That said, I still think there’s money to be made.
Some interesting Masterpieces have only seen small spikes so far, and I
still think there’s room for the overall index to grow. It’s also nice to
invest some of your equity in cards that are more or less reprint-proof:
even if Wizards of the Coast reprints Scalding Tarn tomorrow, for example,
the Masterpiece price isn’t going to drop at all.

With all of this in mind, I’ve taken a long look at the Masterpieces in an
attempt to find the cards that feel the most underpriced to me right now.
I’ve included the current retail prices for each “category” of Masterpiece,
along with my picks for the most undervalued gems at the moment.

The Zendikar Expeditions


My pick:

Believe it or not, Arid Mesa is the cheapest fetchland Expedition. Since
there are only three nonfoil fetchlands more expensive than Arid Mesa’s
nonfoil price of $50, I don’t see why this one can’t be a $200 foil like
Flooded Strand.

I don’t think you can go wrong here no matter what, though. Before long, I
expect all of these fetchland Masterpieces to be over the $200 mark.


My pick:

The difference between the cheapest and most expensive fetchland is a
whopping $230, and the cheapest fetchland (Arid Mesa) is worth only 35% as
much as the most expensive (Scalding Tarn). With the shocklands, however,
Temple Garden is just $70 less than Steam Vents and is worth 53% as much.
This tells me that the cheap end of the spectrum has been making gains that
the top end has yet to replicate. Steam Vents is still the most
sought-after shockland, and it’s due for another bump.


My picks:

All ten of these filterland Expeditions are at least a little undervalued
at the moment. While the shocklands and fetchlands all saw pretty major
price spikes earlier this month, these lands only went up a couple of
bucks, if at all. The recent Masters 25 reprints and the fact that
these cards don’t really see much Modern play depress the cycle’s value

These are still killer lands in Commander, though, and buying any playable
Masterpiece land for under $40 is a deal at this point. I don’t expect this
cycle to spike anytime soon, but they’re great long-term holds.


My pick:

I’m pretty lukewarm on the Expedition Battle lands even though
they’re cheap. With a few exceptions, they’re just not great outside of
Commander. Cinder Glade sees play in TitanShift and Scapeshift, though, and
every halfway-decent land has a shot at showing up in Modern at basically
any point. This cycle might be reprinted in Standard again at some point,
too, which would also drive up the price.

None of these cards has spiked yet, though Cinder Glade has been slowly
creeping up over the past couple of weeks. I bet it’ll end up around $50 at
some point soon.

The Other Zendikar Expeditions

My picks:

Did you know that this version of Ancient Tomb was $250 now!? I sure
didn’t. That’s the out-of-stock price, too—I bet it’s re-stocked somewhere
closer to $300 or even $350. This card was just $150 back in early March,
which is exactly why I’m writing this article. Strip Mine has made a
smaller but similar jump over the past couple of weeks. You’re also not
going to find Forbidden Orchard anywhere near that $30 price point – it’s
sold out, likely to be re-stocked at $50-$60.

Wasteland is a tricky pick here. On one hand, it sees the same sort of
Legacy and Vintage play that Strip Mine and Ancient Tomb do, only it hasn’t
experienced a crazy price spike yet. On the other hand, there are other
cool promo versions of Wasteland out there that are diluting the premium
marketplace. I still bet that this version will end up at $250+ at some
point, though.

Kor Haven is also poised for some more modest gains. It’s quite a powerful
and unique casual card, and I’m seeing signs of a price spike about to
occur. I suspect it’ll end up in the $40-$50 range, and I’m buying at $30
if I can.

The Kaladesh Inventions


My pick:

Seriously? An Invention for under $20? I know Cataclysmic Gearhulk isn’t
great, but you can sneeze at any of these cards and they’ll at least hit
$40. Cataclysmic Gearhulk is in stock at $16 and is trading at $20+ on
several other platforms, so I actually bought a few from SCG in the process
of writing this article.

Noxious Gearhulk and Torrential Gearhulk aren’t bad buys, either.
Torrential Gearhulk sees Modern play, and the Noxious version is a great
Commander card.

The Swords

My pick:

Two of these have spiked recently: Sword of Fire and Ice and Sword of Body
and Mind. Sword of Light and Shadow sees some Legacy play, so it seems like
the best gamble to make at this point since it hasn’t spiked yet. Feast and
Famine and Fire and Ice both seem like they might hit $200 at some point

Artifact Creatures

My pick:

Most of these cards have already spiked. Arcbound Ravager is probably a
$180 card now, while Platinum Angel, Wurmcoil Engine, Ornithopter,
Duplicant, Hangarback Walker, and Painter’s Servant all surged to their
current SCG retail prices over the past couple of days. Steel Overseer
seems like the best bet left: it hasn’t spiked much yet, and it sees play
in Ravager Shops and Affinity. It isn’t as splashy as most of these other
cards, though, so it probably isn’t going too far past $100.


My pick:

Every card on this list spiked over the past couple of weeks, so there
aren’t any real bargains here. The top four cards on this list are among
the most expensive Masterpieces out there, so it’s not a shock that they
went up a bunch during this latest run. Lotus Petal only gained about $10,
though, and it’s a gorgeous Vintage staple. I bet it’ll end up closer to
$200 at some point.


My pick:

All of these cards spiked too! Black Vise will probably be re-stocked
around $40, and “bad” cards like Static Orb and Meekstone jumped from $20
to $60 and $70, respectively, over the past couple of weeks. Chalice of the
Void mostly dodged the rush, though, probably because it was already
expensive, it was just reprinted, and it has kind of fallen out of favor in
Modern. It’ll rebound, though, and this version will end up around $300 at
some point.

As for Trinisphere, the card hasn’t spiked nearly enough, considering how
expensive and important the nonfoil copy is at the moment. I get that
Vintage and Legacy players like Masterpieces more than Modern players, but
this one should still be a $150 card based on the rest of these prices.

Miscellaneous Inventions

My pick:

Again, all of these cards jumped in price and there aren’t any really sexy
specs left. Crucible of Worlds “only” spiked from $140 to $180, and if
Sculpting Steel and Grindstone are really $60 cards, I think Crucible could
end up in the $200-$250 range.

The Amonkhet Invocations

The Amonkhet Gods

My picks:

Hazoret the Fervent is almost certainly overpriced at $120. That figure is
based on Standard play that will be disappearing in a couple of months. The
Scarab God is more likely to maintain the bulk of its value because it’s a
better card in Commander.

To that end, both The Locust God and The Scorpion God are solid Commanders.
Neither has made a price spike peep over the past couple of months, so
there’s still quite a bit of room for them to grow. They’re both solid
long-term plays, though I’d rather focus elsewhere if you have limited
investment capital.


My picks:

I would have had Containment Priest and Worship on this list, but both
spiked recently. The real market value of the Invocation Containment Priest
is actually well over $100 now, mostly because this is the only foil
version out there. Aven Mindcensor and Wrath of God haven’t moved at all
yet, though, and both see a decent amount of Modern play.


My picks:

First, Omniscience and Daze have more than doubled since these prices were
last updated: both are over $100 now. Force of Will and Cryptic Command
haven’t moved yet, though, probably because they were too expensive to be
easily bought out. If those other two cards are going to maintain their new
price tags, though—and it looks like they will—Force and Cryptic will start
climbing again as well.

On the lower end, the Invocation Spell Pierce is gorgeous and the card sees
a ton of Modern play. If Daze is going to be a $100+ card, Spell Pierce
should be as well. Counterbalance doesn’t see nearly as much play, but it’s
crucial in Legacy Miracles and that should be enough to spike this into the
$50-$60 range.


My picks:

A lot of the mid-tier cards on this list—think Diabolic Edict, No Mercy,
Entomb, Diabolic Intent, etc.—have just spiked, while the top and bottom
ends have remained relatively untouched. Damnation and Dark Ritual are
high-end staples, and their Invocation copies look pretty good. Slaughter
Pact is my favorite low-end buy, since it sees some play in Modern and
spells tend to do better than creatures.

Red, Green, and Multicolored

My picks:

Blood Moon and Chain Lightning have spiked since SCG last had these cards
in stock, so the true retail price for Blood Moon is about $200 and Chain
Lightning is sitting around $80. That takes those two off the table, at
least for now. Through the Breach is an expensive Legacy card, and it’s one
good finish or exciting video away from $150-$200. Shatterstorm is a solid
Commander card that sees play in multiple good Modern decks. It should be
$50, not $25.

This Week’s Trends

is finally here, and we already have some early winners and losers. History
of Benalia has just about doubled since the start of the pre-order period,
and its power and flexibility look like they’ll make it one of the set’s
marquee mythic rares. Teshar, Ancestor’s Apostle has also seen some growth
over the past couple of days, though I’m a little less certain about the
future of that one. Brad Nelson
really likes it, though!

On the other side, Shalai, Voice of Plenty; Thran Temporal Gateway, and
Rite of Belzenlok have all dropped a bit since they were first previewed. I
still really like Shalai, and I haven’t changed my take on any of these
cards since I wrote my
financial set review.
We’ll dive deep into Dominaria’s Week 1 results next Monday.

Meanwhile, the Modern index keeps on rising. Goblin Lore broke $40,
just like I said it would
back at the beginning of the month. At this point, I bet the card breaks
$50—B/R Hollow One is really that good, and Goblin Lore is really that hard
to find.

Mox Opal, Engineered Explosives, and Horizon Canopy are all still on the
rise as well. We’ve talked about these cards at different points over the
past couple of weeks, and it doesn’t surprise me that they’re still
trending upward considering the current state of the Modern metagame. Mox
Opal certainly looks like it’ll hit $150 this year if it isn’t reprinted.
Crazy, right?

Amulet of Vigor is also up big this week, likely on the back of Amulet
Combo’s finish at GP Hartford. As always, Amulet decks are extremely hard
to play well but quite good if you’re willing to put in the time. I expect
this one to settle in around $20, and the price is already coming down from
its big spike.

There were a couple of major Dominaria-related Casual spikes this
week as well. Power Conduit was the biggest, rising from near-bulk uncommon
prices to $5 in a matter of hours. My guess is that someone finally
realized just how good this card was with Sagas…I only wish it had been me!
I doubt this combo will be good enough for Legacy or anything, but Casual
value and scarcity should keep the price in the $3-$5 range at least.

I like Power Conduit more than Day of Destiny, a $1 Casual card that jumped
to $7 because it’s good with legendary creatures. It’s super-scarce, since
it was only printed in Betrayers of Kamigawa, but is the effect
really worth it for four mana? I bet the hype on this one dies down again
pretty soon, and I’m selling my spare copies ASAP.

Late last week, Wizards of the Coast announced that they’re making some
much-needed improvements to the card stock, starting with the matte finish
on every card in Dominaria. I’m writing this before my Prerelease,
so I haven’t had a chance to see for myself whether or not the cards feel
different. Regardless, it’s nice to see them putting a little more effort
into their quality control going forward.

Last, New Zealand (and only New Zealand) is getting redeemable
Magic: The Gathering Arena codes in their booster packs. This is a test for
what I assume will be a major worldwide rollout once Arena is out of Beta.
Some of the codes contain full boosters, but most are redeemable for a
single item and each account is limited to just ten redemptions for now.
Here’s hoping those limits are removed for the worldwide launch.

It’s also possible that the code cards themselves will have some value. The
layout will undoubtedly change before the worldwide release, so these New
Zealand exclusive cards may be sought after by collectors at some point in
the future. Grab a few online if they’re cheap.