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Vintage 101: Eternal Masters of the Universe

Hope Eternal

Some weekends involve a lot of contemplation on my part. When I'm not ruminating on life itself, I'm thinking about what the next installment of Vintage 101 is going to be about. As luck would have it the nice folks over at Wizards of the Coast decided to make my choice for this week's topic a whole lot easier. There's really only one thing on the minds of Vintage players right now and that is the latest "Masters" set to be announced, Eternal Masters.

The announcement was made on Monday, February 15th, and instantly my social media feed exploded. Eternal Masters will be the latest reprint set and will feature 249 cards. Unfortunately none of the 249 reprinted cards will be the juicy reserved list staples that Vintage players have been clamoring for. Prior to the official announcement of Eternal Masters there had been a lot of speculation floating around social media websites on the topic of what would be in this set. 

Initially a mysterious leaker from Reddit had claimed future knowledge of Eternal Masters and many folks jumped on this (at the time) unverified information. Around this same time some of the archived pages at Wizards had been moved around, causing a error to display when certain archived pages were viewed. The official Wizards reprint policy (which includes the Reserve List) was on one of these pages and for weeks web searches for the official Reserved List policy found nothing but an error message. The alleged leak of Eternal Masters, combined with the outward appearance of the dissolution of the Reserve List caused many Vintage players to wonder if Eternal Masters would finally bring us reprints of the beloved Dual Lands and the illustrious Power Nine. 

As much of a skeptic as I tend to be, I really wished that Eternal Masters would prove to be real. I honestly did not believe the rumors posted on Reddit were true, and I certainly did not think that the Reserve List was going to be removed. It turns out that I was half right at least. I'm looking forward to Eternal Masters, but I'm also sad that the most fundamental and important cards in Legacy and Vintage won't be included in the set due to the Reserved List. 

So, Eternal Masters is kind of a mixed bag for me personally. It certainly will be helpful at getting some additional copies of Force of Will and Wasteland into the hands of players who need them, but I suspect that the ubiquitous Dual Lands and Power Nine will be even more expensive in the future. If more people get into the eternal formats, Reserved List cards are bound to continue on their upward price trajectory. 

Magic Online versus Paper Magic, Unsanctioned or Official

If we're going to discuss what Eternal Masters will do for Vintage players, we have to look at Magic Online and paper Vintage differently. Prices on Magic Online are almost always cheaper than prices in paper Magic. Magic Online tournaments are official events in which players own all of the cards in their decks, so any reduction in the cost of staple cards is likely to be very helpful.

Many paper, American Vintage events are non-sanctioned events where the rules often allow "playtest cards." These events usually allow around fifteen "playtest cards," so the cost of the Power Nine and some Dual Lands can be negated. Reprinting non-Reserve List cards will definitely make decks cheaper in these unsanctioned events.

Sanctioned Paper Vintage

There are some sanctioned Vintage events in America, and in Europe most events are fully sanctioned. The costs for a sanctioned Vintage deck are much, much higher due to the cost of the Power Nine, Bazaar of Baghdad, or Dual Lands. Eternal Masters has the potential to reduce the cost of a deck built for the American Vintage Championships or a sanctioned event in Europe like the Bazaar of Moxen, but that reduction in price will pale in comparison to the cost of a Black Lotus

Deck Prices with Eternal Masters Reprints

Let's take a look at a top deck in Vintage and try to imagine what kind of cost reduction Eternal Masters could offer. 

Here we have Ravager Shops, the most popular and arguably the best deck in the format. If we look at the cost for building this deck online, we can see that Wasteland is one of the most expensive cards in the deck. In fact, Wasteland is more expensive right now than several of the Power Nine cards! Wasteland has been a card that Magic Online players wanted to see more copies of, so Eternal Masters will be great for this.

In paper prices, Wasteland is actually slightly cheaper than Magic Online, but it is still not cheap. Any reduction in the price of Wasteland is great news for anyone building a Workshop deck for their local paper Vintage event.  

The next most expensive cards in the deck that aren't on the Reserve List are the four copies of Tangle Wire. This card is expensive online due to the relative shortage of cards from Mercadian Masques block. Paper Magic did not have that same problem and there are plenty of Masques block cards, so if Tangle Wire does end up being in Eternal Masters I don't expect that to be a thrill for paper Vintage players. 

It's hard to speculate too much about the future price of this deck because we only know one of the cards in it (Wasteland) that will be printed in Eternal Masters. I suspect that Tangle Wire will get a reprint as it is an important card for eternal formats, but at this point it's anyone's guess as to what will be in the 249 cards. 

I think it's safe to say that Eternal Masters will do the most good for Vintage on Magic Online due to the lower MSRP of Magic Online packs and the large amount of drafting done on the client. If Vintage Masters is any indication of how things will play out we can expect to see some great deals for our online collections. People drafted a ton of Vintage Masters, and thusly the prices on cards from that set were always much cheaper than other online releases. Eternal Masters was designed by most of the same folks, so the limited environment should be a hit with the people grinding draft events. 

The Tarmogoyf Paradox

I remember reading an article by Aaron Forsythe about the upcoming Modern Masters set, when it was first being written about. One of the key cards that article talked about was Tarmogoyf. The best Green 2-Drop of all time was printed as a future shifted card in Future Sight , which meant it was a card "from the future." Tarmogofy started its life as a card that was supposed to be reprinted. Aaron mentioned in this article that players had been asking for a reprint of 'Goyf for some time, and that he did not want the card to be printed in Standard again. Then, of course, Modern Masters is explained to be the vehicle for reprinting cards like Tarmogoyf in a Modern-legal set, and players everywhere slap a high-five and cheer loudly. 

The problem is that reprint sets like Modern Masters have very limited print runs. The entire reason that there is a Reserved List, and the reason Modern Masters sets are printed sparingly is that the first reprint set, Chronicles, was a nightmare for players and collectors alike. Chronicles was vastly overprinted and it flooded the market with reprints that devalued many valuable cards. To not repeat past mistakes of over-printing, Modern Masters sets have all had limited print runs. 

The problem with these limited print runs is that they don't actually put that many copies of these highly-desired cards into the hands of players. Conversely, when important cards like the Onslaught fetch lands were put into Khans of Tarkir, plenty of copies came out into the public. People drafted as much Khans block as they could on Magic Online and at their local game stores, resulting in very reasonable prices.

Modern Masters added some additional copies of Tarmogoyf to the card pool, but this injection also cause a lot of people to buy into Modern. The end result is that Tarmogoyf actually went up in value after it was reprinted. The prime time to buy one was actually before Modern Masters was even announced! This is the paradox of Tarmogoyf. It's not on the Reserved List, it's been printed three times, and the price is still very high. 

This issue with Tarmogoyf tells me two things. The most obvious thing is that the best way to get enough copies of a card into circulation to bring the price to a reasonable level is to print the card in a Standard-legal set. The second and slightly less obvious thing is that Tarmogoyf proves that a non-Reserve List card can be very valuable, even after multiple reprints. If the Reserved List was ever removed, prices of cards on that list wouldn't necessarily drop that much. As long as cards were printed in small, fixed amounts, prices would still stay very high. I'm not optimistic that Reserved List cards will be reprinted in my life time, but I'm pretty sure that the sky would not fall if they were. 


My opinion is that Eternal Masters will be a boon to Vintage players, but it will do a lot more for Magic Online Vintage players, and those who mainly play in the unsanctioned Vintage events in the United States and elsewhere. European Vintage players primarily play Sanctioned Vintage, and if cards from the Reserved List do indeed rise as a result of Eternal Masters, then their Vintage decks will end up being more expensive than they are now. 

I'm excited for the set, and I'm really glad that the eternal formats are getting some support from Wizards of the Coast. I wish that we'd see the Power Nine printed again, but I don't believe it will ever happen. My dreams of opening a pack-fresh Black Lotus will have to remain just that. 

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

In memory of Christopher Rush. 

Thanks for reading, next week things will be back to normal. Expect more decks, deck lists, and strategy. Eternal Masters is too important not to talk about, so it kind of hijacked this week's topic! You can follow me on Twitter @josephfiorinijr - Islandswamp on MTGO 

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