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Modern Masters 2015: Breaking Down the Announcement


I was halfway though a piece on the value of out-of-print sealed products when I stumbled across this announcement. For those of you too lazy to click the link, the long and short of it is that it confirms what many of us have been saying all along: we are getting Modern Masters 2015 Edition this summer, and the cryptic three-GP weekend is indeed Modern Masters 2015 limited.

This is huge news, not only for players who are going to get another shot at picking up cheap Modern staples, but for the financial community as well. All-reprint sets like Modern Master represents a huge amount of opportunity if you can make some educated guesses on what will (and will not) be printed in the set. Moving forward, today I would like to break down the announcement piece by piece, talk about cards I'm targeting, and some cards likely to be reprinted. Let's start by looking a bit deeper at the announcement itself.

Breaking Down the Announcement

1. "Modern Masters (2015 Edition) takes players back to some of the most remarkable planes from recent history, including Zendikar, Mirrodin, Ravnica, Lorwyn, Kamigawa, and Alara."

Now, if you're keeping up with the forums, you'll see that some people are taking this list of sets to mean that nothing past Zendikar block will be included in MM2. But there are some problems with this logic. For instance, the set-listing doesn't include Time Spiral block either, so does that mean we are surely not getting Tarmogoyf or Damnation either?

Thankfully, this video clears everything up. MM2 contains 249 cards from Mirrodin through New Phyrexia. So far, we know two of these cards: Emrakul, the Aeons Torn at mythic and Etched Champion presumably at rare. Knowing this cutoff is important because it tells us that Innistrad block and Return to Ravnica block are "safe" for the time being, and these sets represent the most obvious speculation opportunities stemming from the MM2 announcement.

2. "Additionally, to celebrate the second Modern Masters set, we're running a triple Grand Prix weekend, May 30–31, 2015, in the following cities: Las Vegas, Nevada, Chiba, Japan, Utrecht, Netherlands."

Right off the bat, a three GP weekend is unprecedented. If MM2 is as fun to draft as MMA, there is a very real possibility that GP Las Vegas breaks another record for attendance. All in all, there is a very real possibility that the weekend of May 30-31 could see 10,000 people playing in GPs, which is stunning, especially when you consider that it was along a few years ago that most GPs only drew a few hundred participants. In fact, Wizards expects at least one, and possibly two of the GPs to break the 4,000 player threshold according to the announcement video.

If you step back a bit, there is a very good argument that the next six months is a sort of perfect storm for investing in the Modern format. A combination of powerful forces not seen since GP Richmond, or perhaps even the announcement of the format itself a few year ago. Apart from the triple GP weekend, we have a Modern Pro Tour in January, the excitement of MM2 spoilers and speculation over the next six months, StarCityGames taking the (somewhat) surprising step of supporting Modern over Legacy in 2015, and Magic as a whole increasingly hitting the mainstream with a Hollywood movie apparently written by Brian Cogman of Game of Thrones and a recent South Park episode.

When taken in sum, all this information suggests an increase in interest in Modern and consequently demand for Modern staples. So now is the time to be buying in on cards that are unlikely to be reprinted in MM2.

3. It seems likely that Wizards learned from both Chronicles and MMA. MM2 will find a more happy medium as far as the amount of the set that is printed.

No one, least of all Wizards, wants another Chronicles. While we get a new thing that kills Magic pretty much every year, Chronicles was probably the the one that came closest to actually finishing the job. Because of Chronicles, Wizards was very conservative with how they printed MMA, both by putting pretty much all the most expensive cards at the mythic rarity and by releasing the set in a very limited quantity.

Because of this, MMA didn't do much to card prices. Premium mythics stayed the same, or even increased in price. Tournament staple rares and uncommons dipped and then recovered to at or near their pre-MMA prices, and only casual cards and draft filler really suffered price-wise over the long term. While MM2 is will not be printed to demand like Khans or other quarterly sets, I fully expect it to be less-limited that the original MMA.

Why do I believe this? Well, first off, the extreme limiting of MMA was widely seen by players (and likely at least some at Wizards) as a mistake. Second, the MSRP of a MM2 pack is jumping to $9.99 - a $3.00 increase over MMA. By increasing the price point, demand should drop a bit, as some number of potential customers would be willing to buy-in at $6.99, but not at $9.99.

This is backed up by the Wizards Twitter account which gave us this tidbit: "(Nate) For those asking about #MTGMM2015 print runs, it IS a limited run, but higher than #MTGMMA was." As some financiers on twitter were quick to point out, this really means nothing, because the original MMA was the most limited released booster set ever.

Speaking of things that mean nothing, we all know that the MSRP is pretty meaningless as far as how much you or I can expect to pay for our MM2 boxes. With MMA, the MSRP of a 24 pack booster box was $167.76, but generally speaking $220-$240 was about as cheap as you could find them for in the marketplace. Wizards obviously saw that everyone else was making a ton of money from their MMA boxes, so shifting the MSRP to $9.99 transfers some of this profit from vendors and LGSs to Wizards of the Coast.

4. Drafting is based on "strong two-color archetypes" like MMA.

Wizards has shown time and time again in recent years that they want supplemental products that come in booster to not only be draftable, but extremely popular and fun limited formats (and in all honesty, they have been hitting it out of the park, both MMA and Vintage Masters were great draft formats and Conspiracy was at least interesting). The original MMA gave us ten basic mostly two-color archetypes with a decent amount of overlap between some of them: UW Affinity, 5-Color/Sunburst, GB Dredge, WB Rebels, RW Giants, RB Goblins, UR Storm, UR Arcane, GW Thallids, and UB Faeries.

Figuring out what archetypes will be in MM2 is another great way to try to deduce what cards will or will not be printed. Unfortunately, we only have two cards to go on right now, thankfully both of these cards provide a lot of clues at what their archetype might be:


With the focus on limited play, it seems unlikely that Emrakul, the Aeons Torn does not have some sort of deck in MM2 limited (although it is theoretically possible to be the Progenitus of the set). With such a staggeringly high mana cost there are really only two ways of getting Emrakul, the Aeons Torn into the battlefield: ramping into it, or cheating it into play. It is possible that Emrakul, the Aeons Torn will be part of some ramp deck, but cards like Search for Tomorrow and Kodama's Reach seems less likely because five-color ramp was the dominant deck of MMA. Although it was a ton of fun to play, if MM2 is going to feel like a different limited environment than MMA, getting rid of the 5-color theme is a simple place to start. Another way to make Emrakul playable without enabling 5-color ramp would be to make Urza Tron, already a reasonable deck in Modern, into a draftable archetype which would also fit with the likely inclusion of Karn Liberated in MM2.

Assuming Emrakul isn't for the ramp deck, the only other reasonable option is cheating the flying spaghetti monster into play. Given that neither Goryo's Vengence or Through the Breach were printed in MMA, this seems like the most likely home for Emrakul in limited, as it both makes Emrakul playable, and give Wizards and excuse to print the enablers which are unlikely to be printed in a standard-legal set.

Etched Champion doesn't give us as much information as Emrakul the Aeons Torn, but it does tell us there is going to be some sort of artifact based archetype in MM2. I have a hard time imagining that it will be straight up Affinity-Based Aggro again because I really believe Wizards wants to avoid players thinking that they are just reprinting MMA.

Since Scars block is free game in MM2, there are a few ways the artifact archetype could play out (although Eggs is likely out, sorry Cifka). My dream would be a UB Tezzeret control archetype, but that might be too mythic dependent to be fun in limited. Another choice, given the recent focus on artifact in UR could be a Tezzeret, the Seeker deck with some of the odd charge counter/sacrifice theme from the original Mirrodin block combined with some Scars block goodies.

Remember, this is simply educated speculation, although I feel pretty confident that we will be getting Emrakul, the Aeons Torn into play with either Urza's Mine or Through the Breach. Either way, as information and spoilers start to trickle out, remember to keep the limited environment and the two-color combinations in mind, because this will be one of the best ways of picking cards that are either in or out of the set.

5. Will be printed in English, Japanese, and Chinese.

This is an interesting wrinkle, and I'm not sure what to make of it. It is possible that Japanese boxes are going to command a huge premium. Getting a guaranteed Japanese foil in every pack is appealing, especially with the expected power level and constructed playability of the cards in the set. However, at the same time, getting a foil every pack de-values foils as a whole because there are more copies in circulation.

6. Being named Modern Masters 2015 does not necessarily mean Modern Masters is a annual set.

Sure, having the year in the name may sound suspiciously like a Core Set, but Helene Bergeot states in the announcement video (paraphrased) "it's premature to announce annual release, but if you like it, we like to give players what they like."

Personally, I can see a Modern Masters set every two or three years, but I simply cannot imagine the series being an every year thing. Recent history suggests Wizards likes making summer supplemental product (like Conspiracy), and with the new two-set block structure, an expert level Magic set is going to be released every summer (a season which is already widely known as a lull in the Magic calendar). Would Wizards really want to release Mondern Masters 2016, Conspriacy 2 (or some other summer supplement), and the first set of an expert level block all within a month or two of each other? I would imagine they would be stealing from themselves at this point, as players with finite MTG budgets have to choose which of the three sets to buy, or not buy.

I guess it's possible that they could do a Modern Masters set and not do things like Conspiracy, Planechase, or Archenemy. However, Wizards likes to try to keep a very broad and diverse player-base happy, and some people (casuals) are far more interested in picking up a box of Conspiracy to draft with their friends than a $10 pack of MM2.

7. I don't believe the sky is falling, at least not yet.

My twitter feed was blown up yesterday by some members of the MTG finance community (that I respect) who think the sky is falling, mostly on the assumption that Modern Masters is not annual, and saying that they are selling out of Modern because the format is going to be reprinted into oblivion (like Yugioh). At this point, Wizards has made it very clear that they will aggressively reprint Modern staples, this much is true, but getting bi-or-tri annual MMA sets isn't going to kill the format. It's not like MM2 is Khans and Wizards is just going to print Tarmogoyf and Cryptic Command until they are worthless. At least in theory, demand increases from the release of MM2, the upcoming movie, South Park, and the other forces I have already mentioned have potential to outweigh the supply increase, much like it did with mythics in MMA.

If we do find out that MMA is happening every year, then this might be be cause for concern from a financial perspective, but until I we know this for sure, I think everyone needs to pump the breaks and reap the benefits of MM2.

Cards I'm Buying NOW

Let's start with the easy picks: things from Innistrad and Return to Ravnica.

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

Shock lands were already attractive before this announcement, and they are looking even better now. They fit in pretty much every deck, and as the other piece of these decks get less-expensive from MM2 reprintings, shocks are an good bet to increase and fill this gap in the total deck prices. Right now, most tier one Modern decks cost somewhere in the $750 range (Tarmogoyf decks cost more and burn/non-Tarmogoyf Delver of Secrets decks cost less.) When it's all said and done, I don't expect these decks to decrease significantly in their overall price. While cards reprinted in MM2 will drop, other non-reprinted cards will increase to to keep total deck prices about the same, or perhaps slightly less than they are right now.

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

Even apart from the shock lands, Return to Ravnica block has some juicy speculation targets. Voice of Resurgence is especially attractive due to how good it is in the current format, along with the whole third set mythic thing (plus, Dragon's Maze was pretty bad, so there probably are less copies in circulation than there should be). Domri Rade does not really have a Modern home, but 3-CMC is the right cost to see play in the format. Abrupt Decay is already a format staple, and Supreme Verdict and Detention Sphere have seen play in the past.

I'm targeting these cards as short term buys, with the idea of selling into the Modern hype this summer. At the same time, I never feel safe holding Modern cards for more than a year or so, because the risk of reprint is always there hanging over my head like some dark cloud.

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

Snapcaster Mage seems like a slam dunk, as dodging MM2 means it probably will not be reprinted in the next year (since it's unlikely to return to Standard). Stony Silence stands to benefit from overall format growth because Affinity, especially with an artifact theme returning in MM2, is one of the cheapest competitive decks for entry level tournament players. I fully expect the enemy buddy lands to be reprinted at some point, perhaps as soon as Magic 2016, but until they are reprinted they stand to be slow-growers. Even being reprinted isn't necessarily the worst thing, as the Core Set buddy lands have maintained a price tag of a few dollars even after their fourth printing (which is more than most of the Innistrad cycle right now).

Restoration Angel, Vexing Devil, and Cavern of Souls are other cards that could benefit from the other pieces of their decks being reprinted, although Cavern of Souls doesn't have a tier one Modern deck to call home at the moment. Restoration Angel is mostly played in decks full of other expensive cards that will not be in MM2 (like Snapcaster Mage and Sphinx's Revelation), so I'm not sure how much of a bump she will get.

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

I could be way off base here, but I don't expect enemy fetches to be printed this coming year, either in Khans block or in MM2. I just don't see the tea leaves pointing that direction. My biggest argument against them being printed in KTK-block is that the balance of enemy/ally lands in Standard is already equal, and it seems unlikely that Wizards will shift the balance towards enemy land. Plus, KTK is already wildly successful, and with MM2 is on the horizon, does Wizards really want to waste a surefire way to sell a big fall set (say, Return to Zendikar in 2017) on Dragon's of Tarkir, only a month away from the release of MM2? My gut (and financial instinct) says no.

Speaking of MM2, I just don't see a reason to put them in there. It's a limited printing that is sure to sell like crazy without fetches even considering its inflated MSRP. So again, why use up your finite reprint equity on what is already a can't miss winner in Modern Masters 2015? While I'm not planning on going super deep on Zendikar fetches, I'm definitely not selling out. I see them as a strong hold with upside for the time being.

Other Sets

Once we get past the sets we know are not going to get reprinted, things get a little more questionable. The most important question is, how many of the cards originally printed in MMA will be reprinted yet again? If something like Vendilion Clique or Tarmogoyf happens to miss the MM2 boat, it would be a pretty attractive place to be. The top tier of MMA mythics are still a whos-who list of the most expensive cards in Modern, so if price is the main criteria for reprinting, we can expect many MMA cards to be reprinted in the 2015 Edition. At this point, it's all just speculation, and personally I'll be leary of buying in on other Modern cards until we get more information on the set. However, I'll definitely be on the lookout for the next Noble Hierarch as information starts to trickle in.

The Big Cards from ZEN-NPH

If Wizards wants to make MM2 feel different from MMA, including a heavy dose of cards from ZEN-NPH is the easiest way of doing it. Here are some of the most expensive and important cards from these sets, and I expect a decent number of the following cards will be included:

Zendikar

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

Worldwake

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

(and the rest of the man-land cycle)

Rise of the Eldrazi

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

Scars of Mirrodin

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

Mirrodin Besiged

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

New Phyrexia

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

Conclusion

The announcement of Modern Masters 2015 is the biggest news to come out of World's Week (apart from Sidisi Whip putting up a 33 percent match win percentage while being the most played deck in the field), and although a new Modern Masters in 2015 isn't exactly a surprise, now that it is confirmed, we can start exploring the financial ramifications of the set in earnest.

You've seen my thoughts on Modern Masters 2015 Edition, now I like to hear yours. What cards are you targeting? What are you selling? Let me know in the comments and on Twitter @SaffronOlive. You can also keep up with my musing between my articles on my blog.


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