Browse > Home / Strategy / Articles / Double Masters *Is* For You, Whether You Buy a Box or Not

Double Masters *Is* For You, Whether You Buy a Box or Not


Let's hop into a time machine and head back to November 2018. The last (for a time) Masters set—Ultimate Masters—was about to be released. The set was overloaded with some of the most in-demand cards in Magic and had an absurdly high expected value, with the average mythic being worth $30 and the average rare being worth almost $10. And this doesn't count the very expensive box-topper you were guaranteed to get with every box. After a string of failed Masters sets and empty promises about sets like Masters 25 (infamously remembered as "Tree of Redemption Masters"), Ultimate Masters really was the Masters set we'd been waiting for.

However, not all was good in reprint land. Like when Marlo Stanfield took over the co-op in The Wire price of the booster box was going up. Back when Ultimate Masters was released, it was selling for somewhere in the $280–300 a box range, significantly higher than past Masters sets, which cost around $200, and much higher than some of the forgettable Masters sets like Iconic Masters, which dropped as low as $120 on the secondary market, mostly because nobody wanted to open them because they didn't contain many cards people actually cared about. 

The price increase filled the multiverse with endless complaints. It didn't matter that, including the box topper, the typical box that could be purchased for $300 would yield $427 in value back when the set released. It didn't matter that Ultimate Masters was (finally, after several misses) a Masters set that lived up to its name. The cost of a box in a vacuum—$280 to $300, with an MSRP (this was back in the dark ages when such a thing existed) of $335—and complaints about that cost of a box in a vacuum overshadowed everything else. 

Despite all of the complaints about the cost of a box, Ultimate Masters significantly lowered the prices of many key reprints. Take a look at the mythics of Ultimate Masters, their prices in the months leading up to the set, their price after they were reprint and their current price:

$ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00

Ultimate Masters Mythics
Card Pre-Ultimate Masters Price Post-Ultimate Masters Low Current Price
Cavern of Souls $90 $55 $65
Mana Vault $32 $32 $65
Liliana of the Veil $100 $60 $60
Kozilek, Butcher of Truth $40 $22 $56
Snapcaster Mage $78 $46 $46
Karn Liberated $95 $44 $44
Tarmogoyf $74 $43 $43
Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre $28 $17 $42
Mikaeus, the Unhollow $30 $14 $35
Bitterblossom $41 $32 $32
Dark Depths $55 $26 $26
Emrakul, the Aeons Torn $43 $23 $23
Temporal Manipulation $87 $21 $21
Karakas $65 $15 $15
Vengevine $55 $13 $13
Balefire Dragon $16 $5 $13
Platinum Emperion $20 $8 $8
Sigarda, Host of Herons $17 $7 $7
Lord of Extinction $16 $6 $6
Leovold, Emissary of Trest $30 $5 $5

 

One thing that is clear looking at the prices of Ultimate Masters mythics is that the set - even though it was selling for around $300 a box - greatly reduced the prices of the cards that were reprinted, even those at mythic, the rarity that sees the least decline in prices since its supply is the lowest. As a whole, the mythics of Ultimate Masters lost more than half of their value at their low, and many of the key cards in the set are still at their low point today close to two years after the set released. While some Commander stapes have recently increase in price, that says more about the explosive growth of the format over the last couple of years (and also the finance community taking an interest in the format) than it does about Ultimate Masters itself.

$ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00

Rather than doing another chart for the rares (which generally lose much more value than mythics because their supply is higher), here's some brief highlights: Noble Hierarch was $85 leading up to Ultimate Masters. It's currently $30. Engineered Explosives was $90. It's now $11, despite the fact that over the past year, Urza, Lord High Artificer and Emry, Lurker of the Loch decks have led to a big uptick in Modern play. Back to Basics? From $100 to $6. Phyrexian Altar? From $60 to $20 before recently increasing into the mid-$30s, thanks to a string of Commander buyouts. Through the Breach? From $60 to $5. Fulminator Mage? $30 to $5. Vexing Devil? $12 to $3. 

The point of all this is that, despite endless complaints from the community about the cost of Ultimate Masters at the time it was released, the set did its job and did it well: it brought down the prices of cards that players want / need to play formats like Modern, Legacy, and Commander, making those formats more accessible to the average player. While having an expensive box price might seem important, by itself the cost of a booster box has little effect on how much the price of reprinted cards decline. Instead, what is important is the box price compared to the expected value of a box. A $1,000 booster box that will give you, on average, $1,500 of cards will drop prices like a rock. A $100 booster box with $100 worth of cards not so much.

More importantly, the average player didn't need to buy a $300 box to benefit. In fact, the players who benefited from Ultimate Masters the most are the ones who didn't purchase a $300 box, simply waited until a few months after the set was released, and then bought a bunch of Modern and Commander staples for pennies on the dollar compared to their previous prices. With a few exceptions (the Commander staples that recently spiked in price) the community-at-large is still benefiting from those $300 boxes of Ultimate Masters today (and when you consider that if cards like Mana Vault, Kozilek, Butcher of Truth and Mikaeus, the Unhollow had not been reprinted in Ultimate Masters they would likely be close to $100 today rather than $40 or $50 the importance and value of the set becomes even more clear).

Double Masters

$ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00

So why are we rehashing the seemingly ancient history of Ultimate Masters? Because the same process is playing out today with Double Masters. Players ask for reprints. Wizards announces a Masters set at a high price point to provide reprints. Players freak out about the cost of a booster box / pack and complain endlessly about the set, despite the fact that if the set is anywhere near as good as Ultimate Masters (and there's every reason to expect that it will be), the set is going to do exactly what players want—drastically drop the prices of cards they need to play formats like Modern, Commander, and Legacy—despite its high price point of a booser box itself. 

Considering that the gimmick of Double Masters is that you get two rares and two foils per pack (and two box-toppers per box), there's a pretty strong argument that Double Masters will actually be significantly cheaper than Ultimate Masters, despite the fact that (based on our current information, at least) the cost of a box in absolute terms will be about the same: in the $300 range. The rare slot, the foil slot, and the box-topper slot are the most valuable slots in a product. Meanwhile, uncommons and commons are usually close to worthless (and are undoubtedly worth less in a comparative sense). In many ways, buying a single box of Double Masters—at least, from a value perspective—will be akin to buying two boxes of Ultimate Masters because you're getting twice as many of the most important and valuable cards in each box.

Just to reinforce what a big deal this is, let's use some of the bad Masters sets as an example: Iconic Masters and Masters 25. A more realistic comparison would (hopefully) be Ultimate Masters, but I'd rather aim very, very low and understate the impact of Double Masters rather than aiming high and overstating it. In Masters 25, the average value of the rare slot (which includes a one-in-eight chance of opening a mythic) was $5.52; for Iconic Masters, it was $6.86. In Double Masters, you'll open 48 cards in the rare slot each box rather than 24, which—based on the slot's value in some of the worst, least valuable Masters sets in history (again, we're aiming for the low-end estimate)—will give you an extra $6.19 per pack, or $149 per box, in value.

Meanwhile, the average value of a random foil was $2.26 for Masters 25 and $1.20 for Iconic Masters. Split down the middle and rounded up, this would make a random foil worth $1.73. Getting an extra one in every pack adds another $41 in value to a booster box. For box-toppers, we can't us the bad Masters sets as our guide since they didn't have box toppers, but for Ultimate Masters, the average value of a box topper was $40. I'd expect that the box toppers from Double Masters will actually be somewhat more valuable because they have unique art, rather than old art with a border extension, but let's just say that getting an extra box-topper should give you about $40 in additional value per box. 

Add this all together, and, thanks to the unique booster construction and using the worst Masters sets possible for our guide, getting an extra rare and foil each pack and an extra box-topper each box should add $230 to the value of a Double Masters box. Basically, while Double Masters is essentially the same price as Ultimate Masters —the last Masters set released— in an absolute sense the expected value is much, much higher thanks to the "two of all the good stuff" gimmick. You could even argue that a single box of Double Masters is almost the same as buying two boxes of Ultimate Masters. While this isn't quite true (you are losing out on some random commons and uncommons which are not doubled), it is close enough that the argument isn't laughable. 

Of course, because there are so many more rares, foils, and box-toppers in a pack / box of Double Masters compared to in past Masters sets, these prices might not hold. The additional supply will probably drop prices, so it's probably unfair to expect that your $300 box will yield $600 in value. However, this is exactly what we want: if rares, mythics, foils, and box-toppers end up being worth way less than past Masters sets because the supply of these cards is doubled thanks to the set's gimmick, that means the cost of singles will drop even more, making it even cheaper for players to pick up the singles they need to play Modern, Commander, or Legacy! 

As a result, Double Masters is very close to a win-win for the community. Players who have the resources and desire to splurge on opening a $300 box will get a $300 box to open and likely end up with solid value from that box. Players who don't have the resources or desire to splurge on a $300 box will get access to exactly what the community has been asking for: in-demand, highly playable cards at much, much lower prices. 

Wizards, in the past, has said "this product isn't for you," which might be the worst marketing pitch in the history of marketing. A much truer (and likely more effective) marketing strategy would be reinforcing to players how sets like Double Masters benefit everyone, whether you're a whale who can afford a $300 box or a minnow who gains access to cards that were previously $40 for $15 and cards that were previously $10 for $2. "This product is for you, whether you buy a box or not" should be the slogan of Double Masters, because it's the set's truth. 

While seeing a slew of high-priced products can be frustrating to the average player, and not being able to afford a really cool set of the game that you love can have a psychological toll, which I don't want to minimize, it's important to separate out a set like Double Masters from other high-priced, whale-focused products like Mythic Edition or Secret Lair: Ultimate Edition. These products benefit two groups: Wizards (which makes a massive profit) and the people who actually purchase the product (most likely whales since the cost is so high). Even though the cost of Double Masters is similar to products like Mythic Edition and Secret Lair: Ultimate Edition, its impacts will be far more wide-reaching. Double Masters benefits literally everyone: Wizards gets to make a huge profit, whales get to crack high-end boxes, and everyone else gets a huge discount on the singles that they need to actually play the game of Magic. While there certainly are aspects of premium pricing worth complaining about and fighting against, in my opinion Double Masters isn't one of them. In fact, apart from missing fetchlands (which Wizards recently again promised would be reprinted this year), Double Masters is offering exactly what players have been asking for: cheaper prices on cards they need to play the game and easier access to staples for formats like Commander, Modern and Legacy, and you don't even need to buy a single booster pack to get this benefit.

Conclusion 

Perfect is the enemy of good. While, from the perspective of many players, it seems "perfect" might be Double Masters with the same set list and the same double-rare / mythic / box-topper gimmick at $4, $7, or $10 a pack, that's simply not going to happen. Wizards is a big, greedy corporation controlled by an even bigger and greedier corporation. The primary purpose is to make more money for its shareholders next quarter and year-over-year. Crashing the prices of cards by reprinting everything with endless supply in a cheap product works against this goal. (Side note: Some people seem to think this is about Wizards protecting collectors. It's not, at least not primarily. It's about Wizards / Hasbro making as much money as possible. While this does involve collectors, vendors, and the finance community to some extent because they are the groups of Magic consumers with the deepest pockets who spend huge chunks of money on the game, thereby offering Wizards / Hasbro a deeper well to drink from, keeping prices high-ish is all about Wizards' / Hasbro's bottom lines and their ability to generate more profits in the future.)

Perfect is the enemy of the good. While Double Masters isn't perfect, at least from the perspective of some players who desire cheaper product prices above all, it is good, and it will benefit all segments of the Magic community, including (and perhaps especially) the group of players for whom a $300 box is too expensive, by offering these players a massive discount on the singles they need to actually play Modern, Commander, and other beloved formats.

My fear is that the level of complaints about Double Masters will keep more Masters sets from being offered in the future, which, ironically, is the exact opposite of what many people complaining about Double Masters really want. If you want to fight against premium pricing, do it for products like Secret Lair: Ultimate Edition, Mythic Edition, or even Collectors Boosters, which do very little good for the community at large while primarily benefiting Wizards and whales. Double Masters is the wrong target for the rage. It's a high-ish-supply reprint set that will drop prices significantly and primarily benefit players who don't want to (or can't) buy a box by offering in-demand singles at very low prices. Don't let your desire for perfect ruin a set that has the potential to do a lot of good for the community as a whole. 

Wrap Up

Anyway, that's all for today. As always, leave your thoughts, ideas, opinions and suggestions in the comments, and you can reach me on Twitter @SaffronOlive, or at SaffronOlive@MTGGoldfish.com.


More on MTGGoldfish ...

against the odds

Against the Odds: Cats & Dogs (Standard)

pioneer peak

Pioneer Peak: Monastery Entities

this week in legacy

This Week in Legacy: Baby Sharks

goat magic

GOAT Magic: Can Standard Bant Beat Modern Jund?


Next Article