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.
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!