Why Modern Masters Will Fail Its Primary Goal

Modern Masters

This week, Wizards is coming out with their new summer product, Modern Masters. Their stated objectives are to make a great set for draft, and to increase the availability of hard to find cards for the Modern format.

I predict that Modern Masters will not in any way improve the accessibility of high-level decks in the Modern format. Why? It’s just too expensive. Already, this set is amazingly pricy, and that’s before the set has even released and not a single pack has been opened. My local game shop is already citing prices of $250 or more, while StarCityGames, one of the biggest online retailers of Magic cards, will sell you a box for $300. For only 24 packs. This insane markup above and beyond MSRP is due to one simple reason:

They’re just not printing enough

Like the From The Vault and Commander’s Arsenal sets before it, Modern Masters is being printed in far too small of a quantity for it to ever be sold at a reasonable price. While those other sets became insanely inflated pre-launch, it’s (a little) more acceptable in those cases, since the point of those sets was to be exclusive, giving people willing to pay for it beautiful, shiny versions of some of Magic‘s most powerful cards. However, this is unacceptable from a set whose point is to increase the accessibility of an entire format, one already known for its high barrier of entry due to the insane prices for staple cards. By not printing enough Modern Masters, Wizards is not only NOT making Modern more accessible, but it’s also accruing negative publicity.

Goyf Eats Yo Cash

I know that Wizards has a good reason to not overprint Modern Masters: they don’t want another Chronicles situation on their hands. Chronicles was a set printed in 1995 that featured reprints of many of Magic‘s most popular cards at the time. However, they printed way too much of it, causing card prices to plummet on all reprinted cards, in some cases to a quarter or less of their prices. This deeply angered the collectors at the time. However, in the long run, Chronicles has made older cards much more accessible. Today, Chronicles reprints are cheap and easy to find, opening the door to modern players to play with those older cards from Magic’s past. While a Chronicles style print run would indeed be catastrophic to collectors, Wizards is being far too conservative this time around, leading to the issues with price I noted above. In addition to just new prices, however, the underprinting will not help the secondary market (buying individual cards).

Many of the most popular cards that are seeing reprints, especially Jund deck staples like Tarmogoyf (current price: ~$100) and Dark Confidant (current price: ~$54), will probably not see their prices drop significantly, if at all. Going from the example of the From The Vault and Commander’s Arsenal sets, we have seen that cards reprinted in small run, premium sets like Modern Masters rarely see their prices drop, sometimes with the new printing costing even more than the old. While Modern Masters will be printed more than those other sets, the rampant popularity of the format and the fact that, with no new cards being printed, the metagame will probably not change much, meaning that there will still be high demand for the same pool of cards. I predict that the prices for these cards will initially drop, but will quickly rebound back up to pre-Modern Masters prices.

Because of the fatal miscalculation of underprinting, Modern Masters will probably end up a massive failure in bringing the barrier of entry to Modern significantly lower, enough so that the format will be able to be played by the masses of players who don’t have $800+ to drop on one single deck in order to be competitive in the cutthroat environment of Modern.

Do you agree or disagree with my analysis? Let me know in the comments below, or send me an email at Jake@geekenstein.com!

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  • Tom hank

    Hey I’m Tom Hank, I hate when companies do this, Wilson is the same. There was only one Wilson, I found him. Then they reprinted many Wilson and they were cheap. But I still love my Wilson, wherever he is at.

    Have a grate day I’m Tom Hank

    • Jake Petersen

      WTF did I just read?

  • J.W.

    I agree. For $6.99 I’d be happy to buy a couple packs and see what I get. Unfortunately that MSRP looks like a pipe dream, as it appears the local stores will be selling single booster packs in the $12 to $13 range. Since I don’t play a ton of Modern, I don’t see the point in spending 3X the amount on a single pack compared with regular standard sets. I was more interested in the novelty of it.

    It turns out Wizards is turning MM into something of a collector’s item only instead of a legitimate means of expanding the modern format. I guess some of that blame can be placed on the secondary market too, though.

    Perhaps they should consider a fifth level of rarity for those cards that are really expensive and they don’t want to risk market saturation. That way they wouldn’t have to limit the entire set and could still appease the collector’s for those highly valuable cards.

    • Jake Petersen

      Honestly, speaking only as myself of course, I say that the collectors can go jump in a lake. Wizards should be more concerned with appeasing the players than the collectors. Flood the market with MM to the point where it only costs $4 a pack, and make Modern REALLY take off. As I mentioned in the article, Chronicles really hurt the collectors at the time, but in the long run it brought down the prices A LOT on a large amount of cards, while the collectors recovered. Also, the people who own the original versions of the cards would also not be affected in the long run price-wise, once again going back to Chronicles. The original printings would then become a rare object, just like in Chronicles. For instance, you can buy a Chronicles Nicol Bolas for about $1, while a Legends Nicol Bolas will cost you $15. The Legends printing is still a lot rarer, and thus retains its price, but people who want a Nicol Bolas can still get one for fairly cheap.

      I also really dislike the reserve list for the same reason.

      Introducing a new rarity might work, but I don’t think Wizards would be willing to go that far, since it would end up being unnecessarily complex.

  • Predalien12

    I bought 3 boxes at MSRP ($540 after taxes)….Got about $900 in cards, and I didn’t even get a dark confidant or Tarmogoyf. Trust me, they’re worth it.

    • Jake Petersen

      They’re “worth it” BECAUSE of what I just spent an entire article railing against. The fact that you got $00 worth is NOT a good thing for the format, only for you. MODERN NEEDS TO COME DOWN IN PRICE, and this set is doing nothing for that.

    • bellboa45

      I am seeing 3 boxes of MMA go for around $1600.

      • bellboa45

        Oops! $1600 is for 6 boxes. I saw a listing for 3 boxes at $800. Seems way too overpriced to me.

  • Vincent Borchardt

    Availability does not necessarily equal cheap. Look at TCGPlayer; there are over 40 MMA Goyfs and 30 MMA Confidants available, compared to 34 FUT Goyfs and 15 RAV Confidants. However, the mythics aren’t really where Wizards is improving accessibility; instead, you need to look at the uncommons and normal rares. Cards like Path to Exile, Spell Snare, Cryptic Command, Krosan Grip, Lightning Helix, and Arcbound Ravager are the utility spells you need for decks in Modern, and those are the kinds of cards that are really going down in price.

    However, I’m still saying they should have printed more, but not for the reason you described. The problem with the Modern Masters print run is that they printed semi-niche quantities for a mass-market product. This product wasn’t just “lets reprint Modern staples”, it also had a supply of Commander-specific cards, as well as being marketed heavily for draft. The massive turnout for Grand Prix Las Vegas, along with the popularity of Phantom Events for Modern Masters on MTGO proves that people want to play limited with this set, and the supply issues are preventing that from happening.

    • Jake Petersen

      You seem to have missed the part in my article where I made note of that. Prices will be lower for a little bit right now, but just you watch over the next few years as the prices on these cards all climb back to their pre-MM prices. As for the Limited angle, Limited is not my strong suit, so I didn’t focus on it in my article. You’re right. With the set’s massive limited appeal, it will be nigh impossible to find it on the shelves anytime soon. Finally, all my complaints about the secondary market apply equally to the Commander-focused reprints.

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