Peer Through Eternity Part II: Eternal Masters Perspective

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Welcome to part two of my three part installment on the recent happenings in the Magic Eternal scene. I’ll be bringing you three articles across three days, covering the Eternal Masters release, the double GP weekend just gone, and the Magic: the Gathering Online (MTGO) Legacy Gauntlet. Part one on the MTGO Legacy Gauntlet can be found here.

Great things rained down upon both prospective and established Eternal players with the release of Eternal Masters. The set of 249 cards (101 commons, 80 uncommons, 53 rares, 15 mythics) cmoxfeatures 56 new artworks, notably adding a Volkan Baga illustrated Chrome Mox to complete the set – though the ABU Moxen are only available as part of the Vintage Masters set online.

It also contains cards at rarities that changed their legality in some community-loved formats. The most impressive from this list were the downgrading of Nimble Mongoose and Night’s Whisper to Common. Will this be enough to curb the tide of blue dominance in Pauper format, or will they be simply added to existing lists? Only time will tell.

Still on the topic of shiny and new is the newly-shiny; cards seeing their first foil printing in history. This list sees such greats as the ’97 classic counter cards of Pyroblast and Hydroblast, both seeing their last printings in Ice Age; Gamble, only printed in Urza’s Saga; and the Commander Set cards Baleful Strix and Toxic Deluge.

For those of you who, like myself, are not a fan of foils or those odd non-sanctioned formats, Eternal Masters still has plenty of spice for you. Firstly is the reprinting of tons of great playable cards at rare and uncommon, such as Sensei’s Divining Top, Sylvan Library, Wasteland, Young Pyromancer, and Bloodbraid Elf. Cracking some packs of EMA is likely to net you some very playable cards, if not your money’s worth back – but more on that later. Secondly is the chance for some bomb mythics. I’m never going to be unhappy opening a Jace, the Mind Sculptor, Karakas or Mana Crypt, and cracking one of these beauties can either be trade fodder for your next project, or the seeds of it.

New or prospective players will be elated to see the Legacy format open up in terms of availability, with some amazing chances to turn Modern decks into Legacy playable decks – at least until the duals are affordable. While playing with duals is best, of course, you’re not going to lose a huge percentage of games by using shocklands. Most combo decks don’t care if you’re on 18 or 14 when they go off, after all. Paper Legacy players are, in my experience, some of the most friendly and accommodating players in the game. I’ve seen players not hesitate to lend Beta Bayous for a night, or sets of Force of Will. If you’re looking to get some games in, Modern Jund can turn into Legacy Shardless BUG by adding the reprints of Force of Will, Sylvan LibraryWasteland, Shardless Agent, Deathrite Shaman, Baleful Strix, Brainstorm and Jace, with the flexibility to add some cheaper cards like Hymn to Tourach to fill more expensive slots. Just remember to make your crutch cards CMC 2 or less.

If you own absolutely no Legacy playable cards, there’s still hope yet. Picking up some Karakas, Wastelands, Mother of Runes and Swords to Plowshares from EMA, and combining with Thalia, Guardian of Thraben ($10), Mirran Crusader ($3), Flickerwisp($3) and Phyrexian Revoker ($2) you can start a pretty effective Death and Taxes list. You’ll just have to shell out for Aether Vials ($45) and the Stoneforge Mystic package (Stoneforge – $20, Batterskull – $20, Umezawas’ Jitte – $40), then slowly get the Rishidan Ports. Honestly, with the greedy Legacy manabases, you’ll often find that a Ghost Quarter does almost the same work as Wasteland anyway, especially on the second or third time. I whipped up a five minute decklist just to show you how easy it is. Obviously it’s not a field beater, and if you’ve got the good cards, put them in. The total list comes to US$600 (TCGPlayer Mid). which is less than some Legacy decks’ manabases.

EMA Taxes

Creature (28)
x Brimaz, King of Oreskos
x Flickerwisp
x Mangara of Corondor
x Mirran Crusader
x Mother of Runes
x Phyrexian Revoker
x Serra Avenger
x Spirit of the Labyrinth
x Stoneforge Mystic
x Thalia, Guardian of Thraben

Land (22)
x Ghost Quarter
x Karakas
17 x Plains
x Wasteland

Artifact (6)
x AEther Vial
x Batterskull
x Umezawa’s Jitte

Instant (4)
x Swords to Plowshares

It’s so easy to pick up DnT, Cardboard Crack was firing shots even before release.

If cracking packs and losing value gets you down, you might be one of those odd people who hoards factory sealed boxes, and power to you. With EMA confirmed as a small print run, and rumours already starting to surface of retailers being told restocks are unavailable, this set looks perfect to tuck away in the back of a cupboard and forget about for a year. Modern Masters 1 went from a pre-release price of $350 locally to an easy sale of $450 in a couple of years time, and there’s no reason EMA can’t do the same.

Personally, I loved this set, and no element more than drafting it. I was lucky enough to participate in a pre-release draft thanks to Wizards, which you can read about here. I also drafted again on release, again going UW Fliers plus Enchantment Control, and again getting two wins. My opinion is that the set is very draftable, with great colour fixing in the gain-lands, well defined archetypes, and rewards a good pack one table read. The lack of absolute bombs and availability of moderately costed removal demonstrates the importance of value plays and sculpting a multiple turn line of play – both skills which translate perfectly into the Eternal formats.

So we come to the final metric of the set; the one touted and argued and regularly bellyached about: the Expected Value (EV). EV, for those uninitiated, is the value of the absolute average pack, including all slots, rarities, and booster configurations. In simpler terms, theoretically, if you open infinite boosters, you can expect this much value per pack. MTGGoldfish has calculated the EV of EMA to be $11.35 per pack, or $272.40 per box. Now, I heard of one store in the Brisbane area offering to pre-sell at $325 per box, and another pre-selling for $350 with a free release draft entry ($60) giving an EV totalling a little over $310, using pack EV instead of entry value and including prize support. So you might ask “Why buy a box if you expect to lose about $50?” the short answer is “Don’t. A sealed box has rarely been worth the cards within.” But for those who buy sealed product of standard sets, I have a caveat. My argument (if you’re so concerned about making value but still love opening packs) is that you’re losing no less than opening a box of the latest standard legal set. Take Shadows over Innistrad for example: a booster costs $6.50 at my local store, and the EV for a pack is about $3.60. If you can find a pack of EMA for $18, you’re losing the same amount either way, but EMA has significantly more tradeable cards. So in reality, you’re more likely to turn one EMA pack into something you want than you are the (approximate) equal value of three SOI packs.

One thing that EMA is missing is a group of reprints, some of which are stifling Eternal players across the world. Cards like Imperial Recruiter and Imperial Seal are only as expensive as they are because they were printed in a trio of sets intended for the Asian market – the Portal sets. Due to the smaller print run (they were testing the waters after all) the better cards are ludicrously rare and therefore expensive; Recruiter sell for over $200, and Seal for $1200. Another card, Grim Tutor, has fallen out of favour lately due to Dark Petition taking its slot in combo decks, but maintains its $300 price tag (again, due to the rarity of its print run). These cards are not subject to the reserve list restrictions on printing, and could be in Eldritch Moon for all the difference it makes on that front. Many players were let down when Sneak Attack was announced as the final red mythic, locking out a lot of hope for a Recruiter reprint.

All in all, Eternal Masters was a roaring success for Wizards, retailers and players alike, providing some necessary reprints, a window into Eternal Formats for those previously intimidated by the price, and best of all, a fun and skill testing draft environment. Were I to boil this down to a numerical score, I’d give the set a 7/10 in total.

Allow me to do a little baseless, unfounded speculation before we move along. We’re missing reprints. Packs flew off the shelves. Players loved drafting it. The EV is high enough to warrant its price. This sounds an awful lot like Modern Masters. Could EMA 2.0 be in the works? Probably. Will we see the cards so desired by players but absent in EMA? Almost definitely.

Yeah… let’s bump that up to a 9/10.

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