Magic the Gathering Eternal Masters: Set Review
As the summer sets outside of regular Standard environment start to settle into their groove, Wizards of the Coast has yet again given us another tweak on their still rather young format of reprint sets. Eternal Masters is only the third time this kind of set has been attempted, and as I said in my piece about Modern Masters 2015 Wizards is still having trouble deciding exactly what the purpose of these sets are and what section of the player base they’re supposed to serve.
But I’m getting ahead of myself. Eternal Masters is a set that’s meant to fill a multitude of roles with more pressure to succeed and excel than non-premium sets. To those completely in the dark, Eternal Masters is a set made up of cards from the full breadth of MtG history with the expectation from many players that it will include a good amount of staples from the Legacy format.
Eternal Masters Limited
Looking at the Eternal Masters limited format, the consensus of other players and the single draft I managed to scrape together myself I can safely say the set has a fantastic draft environment. But good luck actually finding a store still running a draft. The unavailability will be a running mention throughout this review. It will keep cropping up again and again, but it really is the only problem with this set outside of its already high MSRP/RRP. Eternal Masters is a great set to draft, it’s akin to playing cube except you get to keep the cards afterwards (at least in a physical draft).
To highlight the power level, let’s look at just the Blue cards. You’ve got Man Man-o’-War at common, Counterspell at common, Daze at uncommon, and Fact or Fiction at uncommon. It’s such a refreshing feeling to play with the real deal after so many limited environments of “like this card but-“, or having to put up with premium removal being extremely high cost or rare. As you well know if you draft, removal is at a premium when it comes to your pick — and boy do we have some premium removal here. Swords to Ploughshares, Eyeblight’s Ending, Pacifism, Faith’s Fetters, Nekrataal, Firebolt, Chain Lightning… I could go on all day. The short of it is you will have a big range of tools to deal with the powerful threats you will be facing.
The operative word here is “value.” Not just financial (which we will come to later) but in terms of mana/card efficiency. Most of these cards really are the best you can get at their respective rarities, with a bunch of cards in Eternal Masters actually being downshifted in rarity. The quality of commons and the uncommons are really what makes or breaks a Limited environment. Yes, there are lots of bombs at Rare and Mythic, as well as a ton of cards you will be forced to value pick because you’re paying so much for a single draft. But outside of that, there will be very few packs you open and cringe when you see the quality of your first-pick options, or many sealed pools where you’re playing a large amount of filler.
With the classic cards, we also have classic archetypes returning like Green/Black Elves, Red/White tokens, and Blue/White flyers. These are intuitive decks to build for any experienced Magic player, as well has just being able to make a deck based around the raw power you can accumulate if you open enough of it. This is as it should be for a premium set, the stench of filler is what really killed Modern Masters 2015 for me, and it’s very much absent from Eternal Masters.
Making a draft set this good and printing it in such low numbers is bordering on an act of cruelty.
Impact on Eternal Formats
This is Eternal Masters, so how does it impact the formats it’s well and truly aimed at? Well the success is mixed. We have a lot of relevant reprints and much less filler, but there simply isn’t enough of this set around to impact the price of the most needed cards significantly. Usually in this section I’ll talk about relevant cards to Modern and Legacy, but this time around there are just too many to call out individually. The set is so packed full of playable cards that its impact isn’t measured in individual cards, but the weight of the set being opened.
We have the heaviest hitters like Mana Crypt and Force of Will present, but almost inevitably these are printed at mythic. Even in normal sets cards printed at mythic have limited impact on price simply due to their natural scarcity when compared to rares. So if you’re expecting those cards to suddenly become affordable don’t hold your breath. Cards at mythic rarity in a set printed so sparingly is guaranteed to have no substantial impact on prices. This was, sadly, done by design and these cards mostly serve as tantalising carrots for players to buy the set.
Where Eternal Masters has had the most impact, in my opinion, is actually in the Pauper format — re-printing cards like Pyroblast. Although these cards were originally printed at common, they are scarce due to their age and limited printings in following sets. I’m incredibly happy Wizards is using this opportunity to print these Pauper staples, and injecting some much needed supply into the market where in previous sets many common slots where just reserved for meaningless filler. It gives us more to do with the cards opened in Eternal Masters, and is a clear sign from Wizards of the Coast that they acknowledge the growing importance of the Pauper format.
Remember those rarity shifts? Well those really matter in a format like Pauper that is only made up of commons. Eternal Masters introduces a lot of powerful cards being printed at the common rarity for the first time. Powerful creatures such as Nimble Mongoose and Warden of Evos Isle are now a common, and that’s bound to shake up creature based decks. Just a straight 2/1 for a single mana is a big deal in Pauper. In a sense, it’s almost like we just got a whole bunch of new top-tier cards printed for the Pauper format in Eternal Masters. I’m really excited to see what people brew up.
How much Value is in Eternal Masters?
If you were lucky enough to be able to pick up Eternal Masters at its MSRP/RRP then you got a pretty sweet deal. A lot of kudos to the local games stores that showed respect for their regulars and sold this set at a fair price to people they know will open and enjoy it. There is huge temptation to flip this stuff online these days.
The cards being reprinted in Eternal Masters reads almost like a fantasy set list: Karakas, Maze of Ith, Jace, the Mind Sculptor and lesser known yet equally valuable cards like Conspiracy’s Dack Fayden, foils of which still routinely sell for upwards of $200. As with previous premium sets you are guaranteed a foil in each booster, meaning at MSRP/RRP your box can pay for itself with a couple of high-value pulls alone. As always, the usual caveat with booster boxes still applies. They are random by design and priced in such a way you can’t rely on getting more out of a box than you paid for it.
There is also a lot more value in the uncommons and commons you’ll be opening this time around, both in terms of gameplay and value. Hitting cards like Brainstorm, Fact or Faction, or Young Pyromancer in foil should cushion some of the financial pain of opening your box. Not to get too technical, but one of the main positives in Eternal Masters is the comparatively lower variance in pack value on average. There are still dud-packs and god-packs, but the $2-$5 cards can really add up over the course of a box. There is less feast or famine when in comes to opening bulk than there was in sets like Modern Masters 2015.
A brief note about MtGO: Eternal Masters is being released with a lower price tag than physical stores ($6.99) but is not available for redemption, meaning the parity between physical and digital cards does not apply here unfortunately. The merits of redemption are a discussion for a different article, but this is worth noting for serious MTGO players.
Conclusions and Recommendations
Eternal Masters has recaptured the fervour and excitement of the original Modern Masters whilst also managing to get that special balance of factors that give the set its special magic. Sets in Magic The Gathering don’t get much more powerful or valuable than this. The trouble is Wizards really knows that fact and is proceeding with the disappointing timidity we have come to expect. Wizards really needs to shit or get off the pot. You’re either committed to these reprint sets or you’re not.
This misstep is a same because Eternal Masters has a lot of genuinely interesting and classic cards. I’m genuinely pleasantly surprised by the spot-on card choice on show here. I was expecting a more rushed attempt to appease the secondary market with a few headline-grabbing reprints and selection of random old junk. Instead we got a well crafted set that is a love-letter to Magic’s history and gives a nod to the realities of Magic’s present with its Pauper support.
Wizard’s of the Coast have created something really special here, as a product I can’t give it anything but a glowing recommendation if you can find it, but the way that product has been released negates a lot of what was done so right. The discussion about Wizards of the Coast and which market they serve is a whole other discussion, which you can read right here!
Follow me over to Magic the Gathering: Eternal Masters & The Enthusiast Bubble.
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