Yawgmoth’s Whimsy #244 – Masters Edition II

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Thursday, September 25th – This week I’ll look at Masters Edition II, the new set for online Classic and casual players. It has 80 rares, 80 uncommons, and 80 commons. That means that, to collect playsets of all the commons, you will need to bust about 29 boosters (on average and ignoring foils)…

I was going to write about my experiences in the Constructed 8-man queues (con8s), but I’m not going to get all the research / play done in time. I had also started to crunch numbers from the online PEs, and look at what the rotation does to those decks, but halfway through I clicked on StarCity Games and saw that BPM wrote that article already. There are advantages and disadvantages about having a Thursday slot.

Instead, I’ll write about con8s next week. This week I’ll look at Masters Edition II, the new set for online Classic and casual players.

Let’s start with the basics. Masters Edition II is an online-only set that cannot be redeemed. It has 80 rares, 80 uncommons, and 80 commons. That means that, to collect playsets of all the commons, you will need to bust about 29 boosters (on average and ignoring foils). To collect a playset of uncommons, you need to bust about 107 boosters, which would cost me, given what Wizards charges for boosters and sales tax, about $450. To collect a playset of all the rares, I need to collect 320 rares — meaning 300-320 boosters, depending on how many foil copies of rares I can open. Assuming I get lucky and opening just 310 boosters gets me playsets of everything, that would cost me a bit over $1,300. Sure. No chance that is going to happen.

The next question is whether to play with the set at all, or to just buy singles. With Masters Edition I, I originally intended to play in a few release events to see what the cards were like and to try to collect some commons. In general, though, I didn’t see the set as being worth the money, unless you really liked Limited.

Basically, I saw few cards that I really wanted in the MED1 set. I valued some of these purely for nostalgia purposes — like Gargantuan Gorilla, which was a big part of a casual multiplayer deck I built years ago. The nostalgia cards had no real value – I could buy them as singles for next to nothing. (Gargantuan Gorilla sells for under a quarter — and generally less — online.) Only a few cards had real value. They were:

Force of Will
Nevinyrral’s Disk

I also wanted a few cards for Five Color purposes — I was rebuilding one of my paper Five Color decks.

Ankh of Mishra
Winter Orb
Sylvan Library
Serendib Efreet
Thawing Glaciers
Plus Mishra’s Factory and Hymn to Tourach (both uncommons)

In short, I wanted maybe eight of 80 rares — not a good percentage. As usual, I opened a ton of chaff, and almost none of the above-listed cards. (Anyone want a playset of Hand of Justice? — I’ll trade it for a single ‘geddon or Thawing Glaciers.) On the plus side, MED1 did have Lightning Bolt in the common slot, and I did open a few of those.

Initially, I vowed not to play or buy MED1 packs at all. That didn’t last — I bought some and even cracked one. Then my vow not to play in the release events collapsed, and I played in a couple sealed events and drafts — enough to win a couple copies of each avatar. Then I quit the format.

It didn’t last, though. As MTGO 2.5 was getting ready to shut down, Wizards started offering one-week-long leagues. I entered one, won enough packs to keep going, and continued the practice until 2.5 went black, and MED1 leagues ended. They were never resumed.

So, my question now is whether I really want to buy MED2 packs. I do have a store credit at the moment, so I will be buying something. The question is whether it makes more sense to buy tickets at full retail, buy Shadowmoor / Eventide packs, buy MED2 packs, or buy tournament packs for resale. For that matter, I could buy From the Vault: Dragons.

Let’s get the moneymaking option out of the way, first. I could, as I understand it, buy tournament packs retail then sell them for more than retail equivalent in tickets, because a lot of players don’t have credit cards / don’t want to buy retail. It used to work. I’m not sure it still does, because the secondary market price for tickets has gone up. I also suspect that it works better for players paying less in sales / VAT taxes. In any case, the amount of time and effort needed per ticket does not make this worth my time. I value my time too highly.

Since I mentioned it, I also want to look at From the Vault: Dragons. This set is also available online. It has 15 dragons — all in foil, as I understand it. Here’s the list, along with my comments.

Bladewing the Risen — don’t have, fun in casual decks, worth a buck or two.
Bogardan Hellkite — have four, foil is nice, too bad it rotates out immediately.
Draco — don’t have, want; even non-foils are worth close to 10 tickets.
Dragon Whelp — meh.
Dragonstorm — (see Bogardan Hellkite)
Ebon Dragon — might be nice in multiplayer / casual dragon themed deck.
Form of the Dragon — have some, never played them.
Hellkite Overlord — let me count how many times even I play 8 mana creatures in Constructed…
Kokusho, the Evening Star — have two, great in multiplayer, could be nice.
Nicol Bolas — my general in at least one EDH deck. Don’t like the new art, and foil TSP Bolas costs a quarter or so.
Niv-Mizzet, the Firemind — (see Bogardan Hellkite)
Rith, the Awakener — nice. I don’t have one, and could be fun for EDH.
Shivan Dragon — it would be better than white-bordered copies, and I have played them. Meh.
Thunder Dragon — could be interesting in multiplayer. Maybe.
Two-Headed Dragon — have a foil one from a base set league years back. Rarely played.

Plus the online avatar, whose name I can’t recall, and I can’t get a wireless connection at the moment. If I played Vanguard, and if the avatar was broken, that might influence my decision. However, I don’t play Vanguard and I don’t remember anyone talking about banning the avatar, so make it another meh.

In this case, I actually want two of the cards, and would probably get some play out of a handful more. The set costs $34.99. Too bad it does not have Eternal Dragon or something like that — actually, it would take quite a bit of “like that” to make me buy a set. Probably. It depends a lot on whether I can come up with a cool deck idea using some of the cards.

Let’s get back to MED2. The set has five cards that I absolutely must have: the dual lands.

Badlands, Savannah, Taiga, Tundra and Underground Sea.

I already play Classic. The Classic deck I played in a con8 a couple days ago had Stomping Grounds and Blood Crypt. That deck would be so much better with Badlands and Taigas — I have already killed myself with pain from lands and Dark Confidant.

In any case, I will want the five dual lands. Right now, those cards are pushing 30 tickets.

The problem, of course, is that if I bust packs, I am as likely to get a Wolf Pack as a Taiga.

Wolf Pack

Creature – Wolf
You may have Wolf Pack assign its combat damage as though it weren’t blocked.

I already have a couple copies of Rhox, which costs two less mana, but regenerates. I also own a copy or three of Thorn Elemental, which costs one less and is a 7/7. Wolf Pack is basically less for more than a card that I already own and have never played outside of Limited.

The big question is whether the gems to chaff ratio is high enough to justify the packs. (As a follow on, if the value is close, is MED2 Limited enough fun to make playing Limited or drafting worth the time and investment? I’m not a big Limited fan, so I found that, even though I could come close to going infinite with triple Eventide drafting, the format was so boring I quit, long before I had my playsets of everything.

Let’s look through the rares, then. I’ll note those cards I want for serious play, those I put some nostalgia value on, and those I might try to trade. I’ll ignore the rest (although I have a bit of compulsive collector in me, so just having them is probably worth a couple cents.)

Anarchy: a touch of nostalgia, but not for anything I played. Once upon a time, Red decks played this to kill CoP: Red and enchantments like Moat. I haven’t seen either of those played in Classic or Vintage in years.

Bounty of the Hunt: I have played BotH in years past. I have no real desire to play 10-land Green beats again — and this is not worth playing in modern Classic. It could be cute with Doubling Season in casual games. (edit: on second thought, with both Bounty of the Hunt and Berserk, maybe some sort of G/X creature rush deck might be playable in Classic.)

Dystopia: see Anarchy — but this was played by Necropotence players, to kill Gloom and so forth. I played more Counterslivers than Necro (other than Trix), so I was usually on the hosed side of this card. Not worth playing in modern Classic.

Ebon Praetor: The card’s only saving features are -2/-2 counters and the art. Giant bunny in hell FTW.

Glacial Chasm: This is a critical part of one of my EDH decks. I want one online, too. However, this is an EDH card, so one is enough.

Heart of Yavimaya: just play Pendelhaven.

Helm of Obedience: This is really expensive right now, because it and Leyline of the Void make a nifty win-now combo. It is also okay in multiplayer — great if you also have Academy Ruins.

Imperial Recruiter: a potent (so I understand) tutor. I think I’ll sell any I open quickly, while the price is relatively high. I may buy one or two later, for Prismatic decks.

Imperial Seal: another important part of paper Classic decks. I’ll be happy if I open one, but I’m not sure I’ll try to find these. On the other hand, I don’t think I’ll trade the first one I open (unless it’s foil.) {Note — these are restricted online, so all I want is one. The restriction will eventually force the price down.}

Kjeldoran Outpost: These were once given away as promos for entering a PEs. I have mine.

Krovikan Horror: I played this in my all-time favorite Extended deck: GB Survival. That was a long time ago, and I don’t expect to play it in anything but casual decks in the future. Nostalgia says get one copy.

Mana Crypt: I have one in paper, and I play it. It is restricted online, so one will be enough.

Necropotence: It is still very good, but not necessarily as good as it once was. I expect the price to peak for a while, then drop to around 10 tickets. That said, I’ll still keep a playset if I can get them. Necro is the first really strong card that is not restricted.

Orcish Squatters: if only it had been Orcish Settlers. Settlers is good. Squatters — meh.

Phyrexian Portal: was once heavily played in paper Five Color — but it was a pain. It is one of the few cards that is actually worse than Sensei’s Divining Top when it comes to making games drag.

Ravages of War: more Armageddons. I played a 20 Armageddon / Terravore deck in paper Five Color, and may play something like that online, if I can afford the cards. I did not open any Armageddons in MED1.

Sea Drake: a great card in aggro Five Color in the paper world. I would like a playset online.

Sibilant Spirit: I loved this card. I love the art, I love beating with a huge flier. It sucks, of course, but I still love it.

Storm Spirit: six mana for a 3/3 flier that can ping creatures but not players? Back in the day, creatures sucked, but we didn’t know it.

Thought Lash: deck yourself slowly — prevent damage by decking yourself a bit more. If you stop, lose. What a card. In the past, a lot of non-creature cards also sucked. My biggest fear in playing MED2 limited is that I could open this instead of a real card. Even Wolf Pack beats this.

Quick recap:

Really want: 5 dual lands, Necro, Ravages of War, Sea Drake
Really want – one copy of each: Mana Crypt, Imperial Seal, Krovikan Horror, Glacial Chasm,
Trade fodder: Helm of Obedience, Imperial Recruiter
Fun to have, but worthless: Sibilant Spirit, Phyrexian Portal,

After going through the rares, I see that I would not mind opening one in four of the cards. That means that, in a limited pool, I should see, on average, one worthwhile & playable rare. In a draft, maybe zero.

Let’s look at the uncommons.

First, I should note that I did buy some of the Coldsnap precons, so I already own a playset of Brainstorms, some Swords to Plowshares, Browse, etc. Ditto reprints like Pillage and Ray of Command. I really don’t need more.

Counterspell: I have a playset, but in white border and with a marginal picture. I have always liked the artwork from the Ice Ages counterspells.

Demonic Consultation: I love this card. I used to play Counterslivers, and this was a critical part. I want four — especially for Prismatic. Of course, it will soon be restricted or banned in Prismatic, in which case I will still want a couple for Classic decks.

Elvish Spirit Guide: works in combo decks, just like Simian Spirit Guide. A nice tool, although I’m not sure whether I will really want to play them.

Gorilla Shaman: amazing in Vintage, when games lasted more than three turns and destroying Moxen was important. Still fine in a land destruction / mana denial Prismatic deck.

Wow — three uncommons I actually want, plus I think I only have two or three Swords to Plowshares. Five or so more that it would be nice to have. Not much. Let’s move on to the commons.

Well, I’m halfway through, and I have found exactly three cards that I can recall playing before. They are Giant Growth, Icatian Javelineers and Incinerate. I have playsets of all three.

Reading down the list a bit further, I find Portent — a decent card drawer in Vintage. Of course, Portent was also printed in the Coldsnap precon, so I have a playset plus. Stupid reprint.

Reprisal is also a stupid reprint, but not as bad as Thallid.

Speaking of stupid reprints, I was scheduled to write an MED2 preview article (then the whole list got spoiled by a beta-tester, and previews were cancelled, and so on. Whatever.) My article would have had two parts: it would have previewed Diabolic Vision and the Snow-Covered Lands.

Diabolic Vision was okay. It is a decent card — not super strong, but decent in the right deck. I play it. The snow-covered lands, on the other hand, were both great and terrible. Snow-covered lands are in Standard — and are part of some very potent Standard decks. That makes the whole “pimp your deck” theme work well. On the other hand, probably due to various delays, the MED2 snow-covered lands were appearing barely a month before they would rotate out of Standard. The cards were fine — the timing sucked.

Thermokarst: Here’s one MED2 card that I might actually like to play. I have always enjoyed the old Seth Burn Stupid Green deck with 8 LD spells. It might be fun to recreate it online.

Tinder Wall: like Elvish Spirit Guide, this was once highly playable for the purpose of accelerating mana in combo decks. I suspect that we have many better options now, but it might be fun to try again.

Other than reprints, I find I actually want two of the commons.

Overall, I want roughly one in four rares, one in twenty uncommons and one in forty commons. Not looking good.

Is it worth playing in the MED2 release events at all? The drafts — probably not. I might try rare-drafting one or two, but I have not played MED2 Limited at all. I was part of the beta, but I had no time to play at all, so I know nothing. I will be playing against a bunch of players that know the format, either from the beta or from playing in a dozen drafts before I get a chance to play my first game. Even in the 4-3-2-2s, I am likely to be losing in the first round most drafts. If I lose in round one more than twice in four matches, I will end up paying more for my cards than if I just busted my packs.

Needless to say, the odds of being passed a dual land in drafts during the release events are one in a million. Well — slightly less, since opponents might lose their connections or miss the start of the draft, but the odds are not good.

MED2 sealed events could be a different animal. I would get a chance to learn the format, and discover the tricks, since my packs plus 2 tickets entry fee would give me at least ten games of Magic, even if I lost them all. (A draft, on the other hand, would give me two games.) I could play in the super-slow casual PEs (assuming one would fire), which would almost guarantee me packs, as well as plenty of time to write between matches. I could also play in the 32-man no-Top-8 events, which generally fire, but where I will have to go at least 3-2 to win packs.

We’ll see. I will probably play in one event, sometime, just to check the water. As for playing more than that — it will depend on whether the format is interesting, and on the prices of rares.

A sealed event uses 5 booster packs, and cost roughly $23.27 after taxes — about $15 if I assume I will win two packs, on average. The odds of opening a card I want, in one of the five packs, are high. The odds of opening a dual land are one in three. If duals are selling for 30 tickets or more, and the other cards I want run in the 10 tickets range, that makes the expected value of what I open about equal to the value of the entry fee. If the retail prices of the cards are lower, then the odds say that what I open will be worth a lot less than the cost of entry. In that case, I will only enter if I really like the format. That remains to be seen.

In the real world, however, it’s Shards prerelease weekend, which is more interesting than MED2 on MTGO. I’m looking forward to that. I will get to play this time, so I have not been reading the spoilers. I want to be surprised by the cards.


“one million words” on MTGO