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Predicting Eternal Masters: Rares and Uncommons

A few days ago I posted my expected value based predictions for the Mythics of Eternal Masters with the promise that I'd be back in a few days to go through the rest of the set. While you should definitely check out the Mythic article for a full explanation of my theory for the set, here's a quick summary before we discuss the Rares and Uncommons.

  • With reprint sets like Eternal Masters (and Modern Masters), Wizards is going to try to get the expected value of a booster box to be roughly equal to the MSRP of the box. If the MSRP is too low, everyone will complain about the lack of value and some people may skip buying a box altogether. Wizards doesn't want this. On the other hand, if the MSRP is too high, vendors will jack up prices above MSRP. Everyone will complain to Wizards about paying $20 for a pack with an MSRP of $10 and Wizards doesn't get any of this money. Instead it goes to the vendors, so Wizards doesn't want this either. As such, having the expected value of a box be about the same as the MSRP of the box saves Wizards a lot of headaches (and also makes players happy as well). 
  • As such, the expected value of Eternal Masters should be somewhere around $250, with the range being somewhere between $200 at the low and $350 at the high. That means many of the predictions floating around out there, at least from my perspective, are unrealistic and unreasonable. I've seen some put the expected value of an Eternal Masters box as high as $1000. Can you imagine the price of an Eternal Masters pack on the secondary market? It would be in the range of $40 for a single pack and $150 or more to draft. 
  • Eternal Masters will not contain Reserve List cards, so if you're wondering why a certain card is not mentioned, check the Reserve List!
  • After going through the Mythics, my predictions put the average value of a Mythic at just about $30. Considering the average Eternal Masters box will contain three Mythics, this eats up $90 of the expected value. 

Anyway, that's where we left off. Today we are going to talk about two things. First, we'll discuss the types of cards that are reprinted at Rare in Masters sets. Then I'll take a stab at predicting the Rares and Uncommons of Eternal Masters based on expected value and the history of Masters sets. 

Masters Set Rares

Both Modern Masters and Modern Masters 2015 contain 53 Rares, but just how many of these Rares were valuable at the time of their reprinting? Answering this question will help form the basis of our predictions for Eternal Masters. All of these prices are for the older/original printing of these cards, not the Masters printing since it gives us a better idea of the value of these cards while Wizards was making the set and during the window between when the set was announced and when it was spoiled.

Modern Masters, Price at Reprinting (Spring, 2013)
Card Value, Spring 2013
Cryptic Command $33
Doubling Season $28
Arcbound Ravager $22
Pact of Negation $17
Engineered Explosives $17
Glimmervoid $16
Aether Vial $16
Glen Elendra Archmage $16
Kira, Great Glass Spinner $16
Blinkmoth Nexus $16
Summoner's Pact $15
Academy Ruins $14
Bridge from Below $13
Tooth and Nail $13
Maelstrom Pulse $11
Gifts Ungiven $11
Grand Arbiter Aubustine IV $11
Lotus Bloom $10
Woodfall Primus $10
Adarkar Valkyrie $9
Life From the Loam $9
Blood Moon $9
Chalice of the Void $9
Ethersworn Canonist $9
Knight of the Reliquary $8
Divinity of the Pride $8
Tombstalker $8
Kataki, War's Wage $8
Jhoira of the Ghitu $6
Figure of Destiny $6
Bulk Rares ($5 and under) 23

Modern Masters was an absurd set value wise. Discounting the valuable Mythics, you'd open a Rare that was worth more than the MSRP of a pack 53% of the time and a Rare that was worth double the MSRP of a pack almost a quarter of the time. Meanwhile only 43% of Rares were worth $5 or less, and only a quarter of the Rares in Modern Masters were true-bulk (in the $2 range). Unfortunately, this absurd value ended up being a disaster. Instead of getting cheap staples into the hands of players, packing so much value into the set cause vendors to double the MSRP of packs, selling the $7 pack for $15. This increase became a feel bad public relations nightmare, and taught Wizards an important lesson about reprint sets, which we see reflected in the value of Modern Masters 2015

Modern Masters 2015, Price at Reprinting (Spring 2015)
Card Value at Reprinting
Noble Hierarch $56
Cryptic Command $52
Fulminator Mage $40
Daybreak Coronet $33
Wilt-Leaf Liege $30
Leyline of Sanctity $31
Splinter Twin $26
Spellskite $24
All is Dust $20
Blinkmoth Nexus $11
Eye of Ugin $11
Creakwood Liege $10
Surgical Extraction $6
Bulk Rares ($5 or less) 40

As you can see, our chart for Modern Masters 2015 is much shorter than our chart for the original Modern Masters. In Modern Masters 2015 only 22% of Rares are worth as much as a pack. Seventeen percent are worth at least double the price of a pack. On the other side of the coin, a full 75% of Rares are worth $5 or less, putting them in the "bulk" category, and many of these Rares are true bulk like Inexorable Tide and Ant Queen

What this comparison suggests is that Wizards learned two important things between the printing of original Modern Masters and Modern Masters 2015. First, stuffing a set full of value isn't a good thing. While it might be counter-intuitive, having too much value actually angers the player base. Secondly, Wizards decided to make Masters sets look more like normal sets. In a normal set, somewhere around 80% of Rares are bulk, meaning that the Modern Masters 2015 bulk rate is more similar to Battle for Zendikar than it is to the extremely low 43% bulk rate put up by the original Modern Masters. While I expect Eternal Masters to be slightly better than Modern Masters 2015 in this regard, I'm still expecting somewhere around 70% of Rares to be limited playable, but "bulk" (under $5) in terms for value. As we head into our predictions on Eternal Masters Rares, we'll be looking to identify about 15 Rares that will be above bulk. 

Eternal Masters Rares

Considering Mythics eat up about $90 of the box, the expected value of Rares and Uncommons is somewhere between $150 and $200. I'd like to leave around $50 of expected value for Commons and Uncommons, which means the Rare slot gets between $100 and $150. Since you'll open approximately 21 Rares in a box of Eternal Masters, the average value of a Rare should be somewhere between $4.70 and $7.10. For the sake of the article, we'll state the average value of an Eternal Masters Rare at $6. This means the total value of Rares from Eternal Masters should be about $320. 

Of course, we are projecting 38 of the Rares to be bulk (worth less than $5). Guessing these cards would be a nightmare because they will mostly be determined by limited archetypes. So let's give these 38 cards an average value of $2 for a total value of $64 and focus our efforts on predicting the 15 non-bulk Rares which can have an average value of  $17 and a total value of just over $250. 

Chase Rares ($40+) - Three Cards

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

Wasteland is an easy one. We already know that it's in the set and at Rare. Beyond this fact, there are a few options for the chase Rare slot. First off, we have Flusterstorm, which is a legitimate Legacy and Vintage staple and in woefully low supply thanks to its only printing being in the original Commander deck. While it might not look limited playable, it is possible (if not likely) that Storm will be among the limited archetypes, and Flusterstorm is one of the the best sideboard cards you can have when you run into the storm deck in draft. 

For the other chase Rare we have Goblin Guide. While I'm mostly steering clear of most Modern legal cards because I believe Wizards can put them to better use selling future Modern Masters sets, it's likely at least a couple of Modern staples slip in. The reason I went with Goblin Guide over some other Modern options is that Mono-Red/Burn is a solid intro-to-Legacy deck, so giving this archetype some support in Eternal Masters offers a pathway to Legacy tournaments for players who are unable to spend thousands of dollars on dual lands. Plus, Red is almost always an aggro deck in limited, and Goblin Guide would provide a great one-drop for the archetype. 

Other Options for Chase ($40+) Rares

  • Grim Tutor, Imperial Seal, and Karakas felt too expensive to be at the Rare slot in this set. Using the expected value model, they would eat up almost all the available value for the rarity. The wildcard is that these cards would crash incredibly hard if they were reprinted. Their current prices are driven more by low-supply than high-demand. So it's possible that, in calculating expected value, Wizards would use the projected "after" prices (maybe $20), rather than the current prices of between $150 and $226. 
  • Crucible of Worlds fits the price range, but it doesn't do all that much in limited. Plus it could be reprinted in Modern Masters and likely even in a Standard legal set. 
  • Speaking of cards that could be reprinted in Modern Masters (or even Standard) Grove of the BurnwillowsHorizon Canopy, and Cavern of Souls seem like good possibilities to sell other products and would be a waste in Eternal Masters when there are so many other options available. 
  • Show and Tell and Sneak Attack could definitely be in the Goblin Guide slot, but I think their inclusion mostly depends on the limited archetypes. If there are Eldrazi in the set (unlikely because the good ones were just reprinted in Modern Masters 2015), it could happen, but for now I'm going to go with no. 

Double the Pack Price ($20-ish) Rares - Three Cards

$ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00

While Vampiric Tutor is little bit above our target price at $32, exceptions can be made for cycles. At first, I wasn't too excited about the possibility of Eternal Masters containing the tutor cycle from Mirage block, considering two of them are banned in Legacy and one is essentially unplayable. However, after thinking about it some more, I realized that this cycle is a great inclusion for Commander players and cubers. If you look at the monthly Commander metagame sweep published on MTGSalvation, you'll see that every single tutor in the cycle shows up among the Top 100 most played cards in the format. Enlightened Tutor is 11th, Vampiric Tutor is 19th, Mystic Tutor is 21st, and even the lowly Worldly Tutor cracks the top 100 at 95th. Many of these tutors show up in various Cubes as well, and they are playable (if not always good) in limited. So apart from the "banned in Legacy" issue, the cycle hits every check mark for a potential Eternal Masters reprint, which is enough for me to put them in the set. 

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

It's been rumored that Stoneforge Mystic will get reprinted in Eternal Masters. While I have no clue whether or not the rumor is true, it does make sense for a bunch of reasons. While Stoneblade is on the downswing in Legacy, it is still a playable deck. Some sort of White-based equipment archetype makes a lot of sense for limited. Stoneforge Mystic is in just about every Cube I've ever played, and it's a Top 100 card in Commander. Being able to print one card that makes eternal players, Commander players, and cubers happy seems like a slam dunk, especially considering it isn't eligible for Modern Masters

Reasonable Rares ($10-ish) - Four Cards

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Vintage Masters on Magic Online suggest that, when printed in a Masters set, Ancient Tomb will be a Rare rather than an Uncommon, so if it's in the set, this is where I expect it to be. Unfortunately, City of Traitors is on the Reserve List, so it isn't eligible for Eternal Masters. If Wizards wants to reprint a sol land, Ancient Tomb is the only realistic option. The good news it that City of Traitors and Ancient Tomb are almost always played together, so getting cheaper copies of Ancient Tomb can still help players build a Legacy deck, especially players that had the foresight to get their copies of City of Traitors before the recent spike. 

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

A wrath for limited, Legacy and Vintage playable, and a Top 100 card in Commander, Toxic Deluge is another card that hits all the marks for Eternal Masters. We don't even get four mana wraths in Standard anymore, so a three mana wrath like Toxic Delgue showing up in Standard seems unlikely. As a Commander card that isn't legal in Modern, there are not a lot of easy places to reprint a card like Toxic Delgue, meaning if it doesn't show up in Eternal Masters, it may be a while before we get fresh copies on the market.

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Legacy playable and a Top 40 card in Commander, Green Sun's Zenith seems like an obvious inclusion in Eternal Masters. As such, the bigger challenge was figuring out if the rest of the cycle would come along for the ride. While Blue Sun's Zenith, White Sun's Zenith, Red Sun's Zenith and Black Sun's Zenith don't scream "eternal" to me, they do fill rolls in limited, so I think there's an outside possibility that they show up as well. Maybe the most interesting option would be if some of the members of the Zenith cycle were downgraded to Uncommon. Is Red Sun's Zenith that much better than Fireball? Is White Sun's Zenith that much more oppressive than Lingering Souls? Admittedly, this prediction is a long shot, but I don't think it's outside the realm of possibility. Downgrading at least some members of the cycle would open up more Rare slots for more "eternal" feeling cards.

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Should Shardless Agent be a Rare based on the text on the card? Probably not, but then again, should Force of Will be a Mythic based on this same criteria? In Vintage Masters Baleful Strix showed up at Rare, so the idea that Shardless Agent gets a bump in rarity doesn't seem all that crazy to me. 

The problem with leaving it at Uncommon is the price. With 80 Uncommons in a set, you'll open almost exactly one of each (on average) in a typical box. That means the entire set can only support two Shardless Agent level reprints, and even this may be a stretch because it would mean there isn't much room for $2-$5 Uncommons. Even though Shardless Agent is "safe" at Uncommon, a reprinting at Rare may be more likely just because of price considerations alone. 

Just-Above Bulk ($5+) - Five Cards

$ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00

Everything I said about Vampiric Tutor and Enlightened Tutor remains true here. These cards are legitimate Commander staples, show up in a lot of cubes, and the ones that are not banned see play in Legacy. 

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

We are starting to get to the point where our predicts are basically a crap shoot. Deathrite Shaman is a Legacy and Commander staple, but isn't all that exciting in limited without fetch lands. If Reanimator happens to be one of the limited archetypes, Tidespout Tyrant would be a good option as a reanimation target while also doubling as a (somewhat) reasonable finisher for a control deck. Meanwhile, Back to the Basics may be a long shot, but remember, each Masters set so far has had a few reprints that are horrible in limited, so in Eternal Masters Back to Basics could very well fill this roll.

Where This Leaves Us

These predictions, combined with the other 38 Rares being "bulk," give us an average Rare value of $7.41, which is reasonable, but a little bit on the high side of "normal." This would mean the Rare slot would add $155 of value to a box of Eternal Masters, while the Mythic slot would add $90, giving us a total of expected value of $245. The problem is that this calculation doesn't include Uncommons or foils. The point is, while my predictions might look lacking compared to some of the rumors that are out there, there is a legitimate argument that even my seemingly conservative predictions are too high in value, which just goes to show the challenge Wizards faces in designing a set like Eternal Masters

Four Possibilities for Uncommons

Picking individual Uncommons feels foolish, since limited archetypes will be the primary consideration for the rarity. As such, instead of just randomly picking some good/valuable Uncommons, we are going to break down four different ways that the Uncommon reprints could be handled in Eternal Masters, while still ending up in the expected value range.

1. One $40 Uncommon

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Eternal Masters can support about $50 of Uncommons, so the first possibility is that Wizards puts all the Uncommon value in one card like Goblin Settler. While this move seems unlikely to me, it is possible. 

2. Two $20 Uncommons

$ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00

The second possibility is that Wizards goes with a couple of $20 cards in the Uncommon slot. While I'm not sure Wizards would want to use Inquisition of Kozilek to sell Eternal Masters when it is eligible for a Modern Masters (or a Standard-legal set), it does fit in the right price range, as does Maze of Ith.

3. Four $10 Uncommons

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

Admittedly, I'm laying out these four options in black and white terms for the sake of showing what types of cards fall into each range. In reality, instead of four $10 cards, we could have one $20 card, one $10 card and two $5 cards, which may be the most realistic scenario. 

4: Eight $5 Uncommons

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

While this option lacks the excitement of opening a $40 Uncommon, or even a $20 Uncommon, it might actually be the best option for most players. With eight $5 Uncommons, odds are you'll open one just about every draft (1 in every 3.33 packs), which minimizes the feel bad situation that happened with Modern Masters 2015, where people would spend $45 to draft, only to end up with zero value. This option makes sure (almost) everyone comes away with at least something, even if they miss out on a Force of Will or Wasteland.

That's it. My prediction is that the average box of Eternal Masters will contain $90 in Mythics, $155 in Rares, and about $40 in Uncommons, putting the expected value of the box at $285, slightly above the MSRP, but close enough that dealer-types won't be tempted to drive up the price of packs/boxes on the secondary market. 

As I mentioned in the last article, I have no clue whether these exact cards will show up in the set, and I'll be thrilled if I get even half of my predictions right, so please don't make any rash financial decisions based on these predictions. The point of the article is to illustrate how expected values impact the choices of reprints in Masters sets and also to lay out the EV framework so you can make your own predictions in a reasonable and mathematically sound manner. 

One More Thing

Thanks to the number crunch we know there is one land in the set that comes after Wasteland in the alphabet. Below is the list of the possibilities:

My money is on Wirewood Lodge, but Windbrisk Heights doesn't seem all that far fetched. Regardless, there were two reasons why I wanted to bring this observation up. First, based on everything we've been discussing about expected value, think about how much putting an expensive land cycle in a set like Eternal Masters messes with the expected value.

Including the allied fetch lands, for instance, would eat up a quarter of all the "money" Rares in the set, so if you want to use them in your projections, be ready to cut out a lot of other cool / valuable cards. The filterlands would eat up even more value, and don't even get my started about the Zendikar fetch lands. Based on the expected value model, having just the Zendikar fetchlands in Eternal Masters would eat up all of the Rare slot's expected value for the entire set. As such, from my perspective it is exceedingly unlikely we'll be getting Zendikar fetchlands in Eternal Masters, and fairly unlikely we get any expensive Rare land cycle. 

Second, I want to hear your guesses on what land you'll think will be in that slot. We know it will be one of those 11, the only question is which one.

Anyway, that's all for today. As always, leave your thoughts, opinions, suggestions, and predictions in the comments. You can reach me on Twitter (or MTGO) @SaffronOlive. 

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