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.