Iconic Masters – Draft & Review

It’s become a bit of a tradition here at Australian Tabletop Gaming Network to sit down with a box of Masters prior to release, play out a booster draft and then share our thoughts.  As with our Modern Masters 2017 and Eternal Masters review, we like to sit both ATGN team members and respected members of the Brisbane Magic: The Gathering community at the table to bring you a diverse array of thoughts, tips and opinions.  Hopefully this information will guide you through your Iconic Masters launch weekend in both your purchase decisions and your draft picks.

For those not already aware, Iconic Masters releases Friday November 17th globally.  If you are unsure of where your local point of purchase is, try out the handy Wizards Store Locator.

Iconic Masters contains 249 cards (101 common, 80 uncommon, 53 rare, and 15 mythic rare) and offers players a tour through some of the most powerful cards in over 23 years of Magic history.

For a full list of all the cards available in this release take a look over at the official website here.

Without any further ado, however, here are the thoughts, tips and suggestions of our eight drafters.

Barnet – Level 1 Judge

On a scale of one to ten how fun is this set to draft?
I would say at least nine, maybe even ten. The nostalgia factor for this set is quite high.

On a scale of one to ten how much value for money is the set?
Not as great as you would hope. I wouldn’t buy boosters specifically hoping to get cards I wanted, let alone any of the “money” cards in the set.

Should you be buying boosters, boxes or drafts? Why?
Definitely drafts, maybe boosters for nostalgia purposes. I wouldn’t recommend boxes as the average return on a box is not great.

Name your top three cards of the set? Why?
> Day of the Dragons. Fantastic finisher and this set is ALL about the dragons.
> Indulgent Tormentor. This card gets underrated a lot, but in draft, you absolutely windmill slam it so you get to see your opponent cringe at your upkeep.
> Wing Shards. Such an annoying card to play against, but playing your own feels fantastic.

Tips for drafting?
Don’t get too set on colours, as this set has plenty of support for splashing. Most, if not all, the archetypes are very playable as well.

Overall thoughts on this release?
I definitely want to do more drafts and couldn’t recommend it more.

Harrison – Standard & Modern

On a scale of one to ten how fun is this set to draft?
I’ll give it a solid six. I don’t often play Draft, but when I do it’s Masters sets.

On a scale of one to ten how much value for money is the set?
I personally didn’t see any money out of the three packs I opened, but there is quite a bit of decent money floating around. Masters sets are usually value for the buyer not the seller, which is great news for me, as I need Flusterstorms.

Should you be buying boosters, boxes or drafts? Why?
You should 100% be playing with your Iconic Masters boosters. I recommend Draft, but whatever floats your boat.

Name your top three cards of the set? Why?
> Day of the Dragons was an all-star everytime I played it in my UG Walls limited deck.
> Condescend‘s new art is really great, and I look forward to picking several up in foil.
> Flusterstorm is a desperately needed reprint.

Tips for drafting?
I always try to stay open and flexible during my Drafting. In my Limited experience (heh, heh) a deck that has individually low-powered cards that work well together is going to beat a high-powered, non-cohesive deck.

Overall thoughts on this release?
I’m a fan of Masters sets, and Iconic Masters is no different. Anything that puts Legacy and Modern staples into my hands is a good thing, and I’m happy to keep opening them as they keep coming. Iconic Masters does seem to suffer from lacking the coherent identity we’ve seen in previous Masters sets, but it is still an enjoyable Draft experience.

Victor – Draft & Standard

On a scale of one to ten how fun is this set to draft?
Ten. This is absolutely subject to change since I give a ten to virtually every new set when I draft it initially, but I love drafting new sets for the first time, particularly when there are reprints of cards that I’ve drafted with before. I always get really nostalgic seeing them and remembering how they performed in the past. Getting to reevaluate them and trying to determine how they will interact with different cards is extremely fun for me. This is amplified hugely since literally the entire set is reprints, a lot of them being cards that I’ve drafted with before.

On a scale of one to ten how much value for money is the set?
Nine for Americans, six for Australians (at the time of release). The expected value of boosters boxes is USD$217~, and at a retail price of USD$225~, boxes are almost worth the amount that is spent on them. That’s US prices though. Australians looking to purchase boxes of Iconic Masters will be looking to spend $320. Slightly less good, since it’s quite difficult to sell cards at converted prices. Don’t expect to make a profit by buying a box and cracking all the packs open to sell.

Should you be buying boosters, boxes or drafts? Why?
For me personally, I am going to spend any and all money that I intend to spend on this set to draft it. Drafting is easily my favorite way to play Magic.

Name your top three cards of the set? Why?
> Cryptic Command: I love this card. Being a control player at heart, I’ve always loved it, but for much more than the fact that it’s an incredible counterspell. Cards that can be played in multiple different ways open up more challenges for the pilot to figure out the best way to use them. Cryptic has six different ways it can be cast, and even though Counter/Draw is used like 80%~ of the time, using its other modes is super fun.

> Monastery Swiftspear: Early threats are generally good for draft formats. Even though I love grindfests that last 20 turns, I love the tension in draft balancing how many finishers you should play and how many cards that either get you to them, or kill your opponent before they can deploy theirs. Monastery Swiftspear exemplifies the latter.

> Ravnica Bounce Lands: In my opinion, good mana is one of the keys to good draft formats. Having good mana fixing affords players many more options in how to draft and construct their decks. One player in our pod played a two color deck that splashed for a 3rd, 4th and 5th color. This is a good thing.

Tips for drafting?
Stay open. There are a lot of playable cards that you’d happily end up playing main. You can afford to use up a few picks waffling around in different colors before committing to one or two (or three or four or five).

Overall thoughts on this release?
I had a lot of fun. Looking forward very much to doing more drafts in the future.

Michael – Draft & Standard

On a scale of one to ten how fun is this set to draft?
I love draft and cube, so it’s almost always a ten the first time. All the walls reminded me of the first Conspiracy set, and three people in our pod had legitimate wall decks in different colours. But there felt like there were great picks going round later than a normal draft and I tried to stay open and think I ended up in the correct deck, GW walls with assault formation.

On a scale of one to ten how much value for money is the set?
Generally speaking there are two money cards then it tails off. There are a few staples that have dropped in price, so you’re only really making your money back from the box if you open really well, bearing in mind that the boxes are 24 vs 36 boosters in size.

Should you be buying boosters, boxes or drafts? Why?
Drafting for fun for sure, depending on your budget! My suggestion is wait for prices to drop on the cards you want and get those in singles.

And if you’re lucky, the drafts will provide!

Name your top three cards of the set? Why?
> Ancestral Vision – as it is a much needed reprint and the card is always fun to suspend and resolve.
> Channel – there is nothing more fun than casting a Channel and just blatantly cheating your way to victory for the sake of 1 life per mana.
> Sultai Flayer – saved me a few times tonight!

Tips for drafting?
Just try to stay open for a cohesive deck! Taking just the rares may not work out. Unless the card is worth a lot more than the price of the booster, try to pick the strongest card early and find the signals coming. This is especially relevant if you are in a draft that is running prize support; you want to win games to get more lotto tickets…

So make sure you know the value of cards in the set. Some are worth well more than the price of a booster and it will pay to know what’s worth what.

Overall thoughts on this release?
Solid release with a lot of choice cards. Was fun to draft and will be doing it again when I get the chance!

Michael’s Cards

Nathaniel – Draft & Standard

On a scale of one to ten how fun is this set to draft?
On a first run this set is a ten to draft. There are sweet build-around rares downshifted to uncommon and plenty of different archetypes you can play. As for replayability, we will see if this turns out like Modern Masters 2017 and if we have a clear best deck my ten will likely drop down.

On a scale of one to ten how much value for money is the set?
About seven. Like any set the money value is hit or miss. There are plenty of chase cards but there are plenty of misses too. Cards like Mana Drain and Horizon Canopy make it look good to open but for retail prices of the pack and the number of rares you are better off buying singles.

Should you be buying boosters, boxes or drafts? Why?
I would advocate for drafting; the fun of drafting mitigates the fact that the monetary value is hit or miss. If you want to buy boosters be prepared to miss a lot.

Name your top three cards of the set? Why?
> Cephalid Broker: This card has so much value and has so many memories of odyssey drafts for me.
> Doom Blade: It’s a nice clean answer to the large amount of bombs in the format.
> The Kamigawa Dragons: Man, that art is amazing.

Tips for drafting?
Don’t be afraid to money draft, you will always have enough cards, almost every card is playable. Take Bounce Lands early, these fix your mana and ‘draw’ you a card; so much value in just a land.

Overall thoughts on this release?
This format is cool, has given us a lot of much needed reprints and lots of nostalgic cards to draft. The timing with the release of Unstable in a couple of weeks and From the Vault: Transform may make this an underappreciated product but I will definitely be doing as many drafts as I can.

Nick – Trader

On a scale of one to ten how fun is this set to draft?
I’d give it an eight. It’s a fairly decent set, with a couple of broken cards, but you don’t see them enough to feel like every opponent has a more busted deck than you. I opened Mana Drain, but still didn’t play it, ’cause it wasn’t really in my colours.

I do like the sheer number of big expensive colourless things that help support the busted cards like Mana Drain and Channel, so it is really possible to live the dream.

On a scale of one to ten how much value for money is the set?
Well, I opened Mana Drain and Horizon Canopy (The two most expensive cards in the set at the time)…..

I think the set is reasonable value. There’s a lot of dud rares, but there are some cool new arts on things that people will be chasing, or even old arts too, like on Thoughtseize.
Plus, every booster has a foil, so you’ve got a neat shot at opening some expensive stuff.

Should you be buying boosters, boxes or drafts? Why?
I think with these kinds of set you should always be buying with the intention of drafting. The boosters are a bit expensive, so you want to capitalise on as much value as possible, which means cashing in on the intrinsic value that can be had in drafting.

Name your top three cards of the set? Why?
From a trader perspective:
> Thoughtseize: People have wanted this art for ages, and the foils from Lorwyn are crazy money. If you want this art in foil for your deck, now’s the time.
> Flusterstorm: This card has needed a reprint for ages. I don’t really care about the foils so much here, but just getting people more access to these in Legacy is great. $70 for a storming force spike is a bit much.
> Horizon Canopy: Again, needed a reprint. It’s a mildly useful land, played as a one of, but had a price tag of up to $100. Stuff like this is not so great for the health of Modern, so putting a couple more printings out there should lower the cost, and lower some of the barriers to entry.

Tips for drafting?
The set has some pretty linear strategies. I had big hopes and dreams of killing people with Vent Sentinels, but there are a lot of big creatures, and people are casting them relatively easily.
I got a bit nostalgic and tried to cram everything in my deck and ended up with some RW deck that was splashing for Simic Sky Swallower.

My biggest tip is just have fun. It’s expensive to draft, but it is loads of fun, especially for someone like me who has played with most of these cards.

Overall thoughts on this release?
I think the set is interesting. It’s not chock full of staples, but it is chock full of nostalgia. I do wonder if this glut of set releases by Wizards will be a trend into 2018, as I wasn’t really expecting another Masters set and a third Un-set.

However, that being said, I’ve heard mixed opinions on the last standard sets, so having these fun an interesting sets might make people forget how terrible they’ve been.
I probably won’t draft it as much as I drafted Modern Masters 1, but as someone who almost NEVER pays for drafts, I can definitely see myself drafting this a couple times.

Nick’s Loot

Dougal – Modern & Legacy

On a scale of one to ten how fun is this set to draft?
I’d give it a ten. I drafted mono white and had a pretty sweet creature heavy deck with a reasonable lifelink strategy and Serra Ascendant. Some of the cards you pass in packs and then come up against in matches do give you flashbacks to ‘the old days’ but overall the gameplay is really enjoyable.

On a scale of one to ten how much value for money is the set?
8? 7.5? 7!
Of course there are some chase cards like any set…well, most (sorry Homelands), but as this set is opened more and more the monetary value of the cards (re)printed in this set is going to decline. You have your money cards like Mana Drain, Horizon Canopy and Grove of the Burnwillows so you can come out of a booster, a draft or even a box ‘on top’, but I wouldn’t call it a reliable outcome.

I think Wizards did a sufficient job of reprinting some much needed cards, however a few choices are a little out of the flavour and feel of the set (Glimpse the Unthinkable?)

Should you be buying boosters, boxes or drafts? Why?
Draft it. Draft it all day, draft it all night. Sure, if you don’t do so well at FNM and you’re lucky enough to have a local store that will allow an Iconic Masters booster as your pity prize take the booster but otherwise…Draft. This is how you get full value while also  squeezing a good time and the entertainment value out of the set.

There is still a part of me that loves the feeling of getting a box and ripping open the boosters straight away to see the value, but I know I’m, and you’re, most likely going to be left disappointed with this set.

Name your top three cards of the set? Why?
> Flusterstorm: A Legacy and Vintage one mana all-star that has needed a reprint for a while now. One of the few commander cards that has made its way into constructed formats, this mostly sideboard card will hopefully now be home to a much lower price tag.
> Auriok Champion / Glimpse the Unthinkable: Tied. One is a great sideboard card in Modern, the other a casual all-star. These $30 cards (give or take) have needed a reprint to lower their cost for a long time.
> Elesh Norn: My choice for the MVB (Most Valuable Bomb) in Iconic Masters Draft.

Tips for drafting?
> Play more than one colour. I played one colour and enjoyed it, but it’s so easy to splash for a second and even a third colour in this set.
> Money cards are usually a first or second pick, but if you can worry about your deck first and the value of it second, your experience drafting is going to be so much better.

Overall thoughts on this release?
Honestly, this set had the nickname iCONic Masters for the weekend, being the big release for HasCON in the US earlier this year. A set to reprint some high demand and high cost format staples, Wizards didn’t miss the mark to make this set a pretty easy money grab for them.

In saying that, the set has some good draft elements to it, and it’s not just a bunch of cards players have been screaming for to be reprinted all thrown in together in a nice looking box.

Connor – Modern & Legacy

On a scale of one to ten how fun is this set to draft?
Six. There’s such a diverse set pool which Iconic Masters takes from, and sometimes you’ll end up drafting some bombs or cards with decent mechanics that become irrelevant in the face of your pool. (+1/+1 counters is a good example of this). There’s also a ton of recent cards seeing reprints.

On a scale of one to ten how much value for money is the set?
A solid seven. You’re going to see some awesome cards pulled, but they’re a very small section of the overall pool. In comparison to MM17, with the fetches at rare, you’re likely to lose some money on these drafts.

Should you be buying boosters, boxes or drafts? Why?
Buy a box, draft it out. If you’ve got the $320AU RRP to dump on this product, you may as well have the fun too, right?

Name your top three cards of the set? Why?
> Horizon Canopy – A much needed reprint of an amazing card. I’m pretty biased though.
> Nantuko Shaman – A well costed dude that rewards patience. Sign me up.
> Simic Sky Swallower – Undisputed king of the bombs. Evasion, removal-proof, and well costed P/T.

Tips for drafting?
Dollar value, then card value. You want to earn your money back on a (typically) $50 draft. In order to win the draft pick good cards, you can’t force your way into an archetype without a bit of luck.

Overall thoughts on this release?
Ehh? Okay, this is fine, but I can’t say it’s as good as the preceding Masters sets. Lacklustre value, with a difficult-to-draft experience will leave some players feeling burned after pulling nothing, then being 0-3 wrecked because their cobbled together mess went up against someone who luck-sacked a Simic Sky Swallower.


Hopefully the opinions, tips and thoughts above will help you navigate your Iconic Masters release weekend. The general consensus appears to be that the set is an awful lot of fun to draft (as most Masters sets tend to be) but the dollar return on investment if you outright buy boosters or boxes might be a bit hit and miss.  If you’re looking for more detailed information on card value we suggest you head over to Star City Games and take a look.  Expect prices to start a little high and taper off over the coming weeks.  The great news with this release though is some cards in dire need of a reprint should start seeing their value drop and become more affordable to players.

A huge thank you to Wizards of the Coast for supplying us with this box to draft and review.

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