With the recently released Kaladesh block in full swing, many players have been wondering what Wizards’ announcement in September about the Masterpiece series means for the Magic community as a whole. How is such a print cycle going to affect the limited environment? How is it going to affect prices in Standard? And will it truly help make cards more accessible for Eternal formats like Modern and Legacy? Today, we’re going to try and answer these questions.
As stated on the WotC website, the Masterpiece series was created as a way to make older cards more accessible to players without destroying the Standard environment. Zendikar Expeditions was created in the test run, and was so successful that Wizards has decided to continue the series for all sets planned in the future.
Reprinting cards into Standard has always been a fairly difficult challenge for Wizards (as we saw with the fetch land cycle in Khans), so the decision to add Masterpieces seems like a solid choice. As much as we all want Wizards to reprint cards such as Liliana of the Veil, Tarmogoyf, the fetchlands, and Snapcaster Mage, it’s not a feasible option for the continued health of Standard. Don’t get me wrong, it’s definitely possible to integrate reprints into a set without destroying a format, but in order to print cards that are at desirable power levels, there would have to be major design changes in order to balance everything out.
While they aren’t core cards in Standard, the Masterpieces are Wizards’ attempt at appeasing the desire for more reprints (without destroying the Standard meta game or significantly altering blocks to balance overpowered cards). They’re definitely not as rare as people make them out to be. As stated in Mark Rosewater’s article, Masterpieces have around the same pull ratio as other Mythic Rares. A ton of Masterpieces will be pulled, considering the high volume of packs that are being distributed and opened.
What about Limited?
A fairly large concern is how Masterpieces will end up effecting Limited. The fact that any player could pull, let’s say, an Æther Vial, run it in a sealed deck, and completely sweep a prerelease or draft is definitely not a tiny issue. The fact that Masterpieces is as rare as a normal Mythic Rare makes up for this. But even so, in the Kaladesh block, it’s currently completely possible for a player to run a Painter’s Servant/Grindstone combo deck in Limited. The Masterpiece series definitely has the potential to ruin the Limited environment; however, because of the unlikelihood of actually pulling them, we don’t believe it’ll become a major issue. Additionally, pulling a Masterpiece allows a player to experiment with strategies from Magic’s history without ever buying into expensive Eternal decks – not to mention of the other potential benefits Masterpieces could provide (but more on that later).
Another concern is that Masterpieces will devalue the cost of Standard sets by causing too many packs to be opened and distributed. However, this hasn’t become an issue as of yet, and in all honesty, the Masterpiece set has more potential to bring new players to the game than push them away (and also to provide vendors with new special chase cards to distribute). While the secondary market is an incredibly integral part of the continued health and publicity of Magic, it doesn’t seem like the Masterpiece set will significantly affect the value of cards. Yes, if more packs are opened because of them, then some cards’ value will go down slightly – but highly sought-after cards are just that: highly sought-after.
Now on to the main issue: will this fix the reprint conundrum?
The answer is both yes and no.
While the Masterpiece set isn’t exactly a limited print run, it bears some very striking similarities in availability and distribution. Limited print run sets have historically done little to nothing to affect the prices of cards, or, when they actually have an impact, only affect the prices for a short time (before they go right back up).
Masterpieces, being highly sought-after Chase Mythics with alternative art and foil, will never be as cheap as the original cards. In most cases, they’ll be incredibly expensive. In spite of this, an increased level of availability for Eternal cards – regardless of how blingy or pricey they are – will, in some ways, help to keep prices down. It’s very likely that Masterpieces won’t lower the prices of Eternal formats significantly, but will instead help to stop prices from being raised. While this doesn’t solve all of the issues many players feel Wizards needs to address, it does solve the main issue: the continually rising price of Eternal. The fact that old cards are being reprinted for all intents and purposes in an unlimited print run helps to keep prices at least stabilized.
Another potential benefit of adding Masterpieces into sets is that it’ll increase the interest players have in Standard and playing Limited. An increased interest in these aspects of the game could potentially motivate Wizards to make more changes to their policies so that eventually, the reprint issue will be completely solved.
Regardless, the release of the Masterpiece series is definitely a step in the right direction for Wizards, the community, and Magic: the Gathering as a whole. While it may slightly affect Limited in both negative and positive ways, it’s definitely an effort by Wizards to make Eternal formats finally accessible to the vast majority of all players.
But what do you think? Will the Masterpiece series be a success or a flop? Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments section below – and as always, happy gaming, everyone!