The full list for Double Masters is out, and “double” is not nearly descriptive enough. It’s chock-full of amazeballs reprints that you’ll see at your Commander tables in very short order. Better yet, it has cards from across all eras of Magic, exposing some newer players to cards they might never have seen. The icing on the cake is that they fit into play styles all across the spectrum. It really is a set For the People.
One of the things that reprint sets bring to the game, and particularly to the Commander format, is democratization, meaning that it makes more game pieces more affordable to more players. Just making cards cheaper, however, is only part of the meta-equation that is the life and health of the game. The secondary market exists and is a powerful force (as we who exist as content creators can attest).
The even better news is that reprints like Double Masters are at worst neutral to the secondary market; in all, they’re probably a net positive. While I’m no Magic finance expert, I can see from at the very least observational evidence that reprints don’t negatively impact the price of the original versions of the card. In some cases, those prices rise. Magic players like their bling. Having an OG copy of something is a goal, and new copies make the older ones blingier.
I’m one of those players who likes that bling, although I need it only to a certain extent. When I’m building a new deck that I’m going to foil out, I don’t care which copy of Stomping Ground or Watery Grave I put in, so long as it’s foily (and the art’s not terrible—I resisted a foil copy of Aether Flash for years because the Seventh Edition art is awkward). I’d personally trade an original version of Watery Grave (from Ravnica: City of Guilds) for six copies of the newer one (from Guilds of Ravnica or Gatecrash)—but that’s because I have an ever-increasing supply of decks. If I were to have only a small stable, I’d likely limit myself to the blingiest version.
The biggest point here is that Masters sets are in the trim very good for the players who just want cards, and Commander players in particular, since we play in an Eternal format. There’s been a whole swath of criticism lately about the price of some Magic products, but the ground truth is that for the most part, the cards we want to play with in Commander are affordable—although you don’t want to get me started on manabases. During my time as a designer, “How do we make good, playable lands that tap for multiple colors?” was a question always percolating inside my head.
Snapping back from that diversion, more versions of more cards being out in the wild is a huge positive for us. While the cost of the boosters is relatively high (another source of some angst), it seems to me that the prices of singles (with a few obvious exceptions for chase cards) will settle into a reasonable spot as a greater supply meets the demand. We get two benefits here (and again, this is a tendency and won’t be true for every individual card): cheaper and more available versions for the players who want them while protecting the investments of the collectors.
Even better for those of us with a pimp-your-ride problem is that there are sweet new alternate-art and extended border versions of the cards, so now we have even more opportunity to indulge ourselves. That new Force of Will by Scott M. Fischer is super-sweet. I’m happy to see that Tom Baxa has returned to doing Magic art after a layoff of about eight years in the new Wrath of God variant.
The variants will command very high prices, which in the end is fine with me, because I think that in general that it will drive down the prices of the normal versions while making them slightly more available. That’s obviously not going to be the case with high-demand cards in other Eternal formats, such as the aforementioned Force of Will or Mana Crypt. For the most part, I’m confident average prices on basic versions, especially once we settle down from the excitement of them being new, will be in a good place for Commander players.
I’m not going to do a traditional set review. Instead, here’s my Top 10 of the best that are For the People: cards which, in their basic versions, will get more copies into the hands of players who might have shied away from them due to price or other availability considerations.
Honorable mention goes to the five Shadowmoor-era filter lands:
As mentioned, more affordable manabases are a good thing all around.
Second honorable mention to the five Swords:
They’re iconic cards which will likely still be a little on the pricey side, but a little less so now.
Third honorable mention goes to Karn Liberated, so I can tell the story of the first time anyone ever played it in a game with me.
It was during one of the early Armada Games EDH Leagues, and it was former Level 3 Judge Ben McDole. He dropped Karn and targeted me with the +4 ability, and the card I exiled was Brooding Saurian. Sweet justice.
Last but not least honorable mention goes to Deepglow Skate for many, many shenanigans in its future.
10. Cyclonic Rift
One of the most talked-about cards in the format, there are no plans for Cyclonic Rift to go anywhere. It’s justifiably a format staple, and while we might have a side discussion about how healthy having a large list of staples might be, it’s a card that some players will shy away from due to cost.
Yes, I’d prefer it to be less splashable, but we are where we are. It’s one of those cards that I find reasonable protection against some of the busted stuff some people want to do. While seemingly a card that plays offense, I think we’ve seen plenty of observational evidence that it gets played as a defensive card more often. Bonus points that it has an alternate art version, even if the original art is more fitting with my personal aesthetic. Cyclonic Rift is also a way to deal with the next card on the list.
9. Avacyn, Angel of Hope
Avacyn currently suffers from some availability problems, so more of them in the wild is good for the player base. It’s an eight-mana, very Timmy creature that is in no way format-breaking. I know that there are people who like to play it with Armageddon, which is generally seen as an unfun play, but I’m okay with it since that’s really a finishing move. It’s not like the game will last long from there. Someone else having Avacyn on the battlefield is one of those puzzles I enjoy trying to solve. It’s frequently very difficult, which makes the times that you actually get there even more fulfilling.
8. Toxic Deluge
A card criminally underplayed outside of high-powered circles, and here’s hoping we see the reprint expose more people to the power of Toxic Deluge. You can’t regenerate from -X/-X and indestructible doesn’t matter. I don’t think there’s a danger point surrounding Toxic Deluge like there might be with some other cards that see high-powered play like Ad Nauseam. It’s not the kind of card that wrecks environments, and it’s the kind of card that some decks really need.
7. Hammer of Nazahn
Another one printed only in a Commander set (Commander 2017), meaning it also wasn’t available in foil. It additionally suffered from availability issues; it seemed like every time I wanted to build a new deck with one in it, I couldn’t find one in stock. It’s a great card that I definitely want to play a little more, especially since I don’t really have that many Voltron decks. I would have liked to see them do this one in alternate art, but understand that it’d be difficult to do them all.
6. Fulminator Mage
Even though it saw a reprint in Modern Masters 2015, we haven’t seen the kind of uptick in play of Fulminator Mage that I expected back then. The whole Shadowmoor (and surrounding sets) era seems like a dead zone for many players, and there are some extremely saucy cards in there. Fulminator Mage is in a recursion color and takes care of some of the more problematic cards in the format, from Gaea’s Cradle to Cabal Coffers to Nykthos, Shrine of Nyx. I’m tremendously excited by the card.
5. Atraxa, Praetors’ Voice
I’m not saying that more Atraxa is necessarily good for the format, but there are certainly people who wanted to play it who weren’t since they either couldn’t get their hands on one or the price was a bit too high. Maybe this is just the idealist in me talking, but what’s the chance that more Atraxas floating around means that there will be a few more creative builds instead of endless Superfriends decks? I’d love to see someone build a saucy version showcasing cards like Archfiend of Ifnir and Hapatra, Vizier of Poisons. In fact, I’d like it so much that if you send me a cool enough version, I’d consider making it an Other Peoples’ Decks feature.
4. Land Tax
People commonly regard white as the worst color in Commander. I’m pretty sure it’s still red, but I get that your mileage may vary. Anytime there’s a good white card that not many people have the opportunity to get their hands on, I’m happy about it. Even with the Battlebond reprint, I don’t see that many folks playing it. Now’s their chance, and I want to encourage them to give it a shot. I’m also happy that it’s the newer art, which I consider a really cool piece.
3. Noble Hierarch
Another one whose reprint (Modern Masters 2015) didn’t seem to do much to increase its availability and lower cost, everyone’s favorite Bant mana creature is certainly going to find its way into a number of decks that didn’t have it before.
Seeing Noble Hierarch previewed accelerated an idea that’s been tickling the back of my brain. I’ve recently been thinking about the value of one- and two-drop mana creatures for my decks. Historically, I’ve shied away from them in favor of land ramp because lands tend to stay around and creatures don’t. Mana creatures are generally a turn faster, but I’m not playing in a speed-matters environment. Still, I sometimes find my decks a little slower than I like.
Given that I play a fair number of graveyard decks, I might have to rethink my stance (although Noble Hierarch itself probably doesn’t figure into them). Karador, Ghost Chieftain and Muldrotha, the Gravetide come to mind when considering that a mana creature getting blown up isn’t so debilitating.
2. Arixmethes, Slumbering Isle
I’ll confess to the fact that there might be some bias here, since the card was designed by fellow Commander Rules Committee member Scott Larabee. It’s an extremely well-loved card, and while not particularly expensive, often hard to find a copy of.
It also recently came up in a game that I was playing with my Brokkos, Apex of Forever deck. The deck happens to feature the combination of Pir, Imaginative Rascal and Toothy, Imaginary Friend. I removed the last counter from Arixmethes, turning it into a creature, making it ready for battle. When I swung at RC co-founder Gavin Duggan, he blinked it. I was sad to realize when it came back, Pir put an additional counter on it. That’s what I think the kids call a nonbo. Still, the fact that everyone’s favorite sleepy boi will now be available in foil is just icing on an already-delicious cake.
Until I saw it on the official preview, I thought for some reason that Exploration was on the Reserved List. Looking it up reminded me it got reprinted in Conspiracy 2014, which didn’t do all that much to increase the accessibility or drop the price.
Exploration can be very strong early, but unlike Burgeoning, it won’t significantly drop in value later in the game. First, you’re not dependent on other players. Second, you’re taking advantage of that additional land drop to do more than just accelerate your board position. You’re playing it with landfall triggers or Tatyova, Benthic Druid for profit. It’s a card that plenty of people want and will help them do some of the bonkers stuff the format is known for without really breaking anything. Combined with its previous lack of availability, that makes it a perfect reprint.
From just increasing availability of powerful cards to all the sweet new alternate art, Double Masters will have an immediate impact on your Commander environment. The team that put this set together has really exceeded themselves. It’s not a stretch to call it the best Masters set ever.
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