A Thorough Look at Ultimate Masters - Part 1
- Gianluca Aicardi
Ultimate Masters is going to be the last event release celebrating 25 years of Magic in 2018, and possibly the final set in the Masters series. Let's see what all these reprints bring to the UMA experience and the secondary market, starting from the ones belonging to either the White or Blue dominions.
A month from now, Magic: The Gathering will enter its 26th year of life, so we'll be forced to stop commemorating its first quarter of century. The very last hurrah is a set aptly referred to as “ultimate” which might well also signify the final entry in the series of reprints that went under the “Masters” moniker and, in the non-digital world, started in 2013 with the first Modern Masters (while the MTGO-exclusive Masters Edition series debuted in 2007).
Regardless of what new form the always vital issue of card reprinting will take in the future, we're left with evaluating these draftable 254 cards that will be available via supercharged boosters (or semi-borderless foil promo Box Toppers) from December 7, both online and physically. What's noteworthy? What'll constitute a relief effort for the wallet of budget players? Let's look at them by color, with the multicolored ones peppered through.
Cards: 47 (35 W, 4 W/U, 4 W/G, 2 W/B, 2 W/R)
New art: 6 (3 W, 1 W/U, 1 W/G, 1 W/R)
Box Toppers: 3 (3 W/G)
As already hinted at by the six cards that appear with new artwork, white is getting the short end of the stick here, with no monocolored mythics and only Sigarda, Host of Herons as a mythic shared with another color. Sigarda is a fine creature that's always bound to find some home, even just as a sideboard finisher to field against control. And though she's sold for less than 50 cents in digital form, she still commands about 7 € in paper.
The closest thing to a mono white money card in the set is Containment Priest, a crucial anti-reanimation tool for Vintage and Legacy that was once valued as much as the entire Commander 2014 deck that originally contained her; she's still 11 € in paper, and only recently came down from 20 to 10 tickets on MTGO. Both figures that remain lower than the $13.99 retail price of a booster of Ultimate Masters. The buzzkill Priest has a role to play in the Ultimate Masters Limited environment, where black packs a strong reanimation theme.
Similarly, Daybreak Coronet leads white's main Aura theme based around the reprint of Slippery Bogle at uncommon, but also featuring heroic creatures like Hero of Iroas and Phalanx Leader. The Coronet is not the overpriced chase card that once was at the pinnacle of Bogle's popularity, especially online, where it crashed from 20 tix to the current 0.6, albeit its paper price still gravitates around a solid 5 €, which makes it a notable reprint.
And while Containment Priest isn't Modern-legal, the set rehashes two valuable sideboard cards for the slightly-less Eternal format too, in the form of Shadowmoor's Runed Halo and Lorwyn's Gaddock Teeg. The former still sells around 8 €, despite not being played too much, mostly due to the many white sideboard options competing for a slot (speaking of which, Stony Silence and Rest in Peace had been reprinted in Modern Masters 2017 and Masters 25, respectively, with the latter still feeling overpriced as a digital object at 9 tix). The stern Kithkin, one of the white Box Toppers alongside Sigarda and Kitchen Finks, is always fashionable as a way to disrupt combo pieces like Ad Nauseam and Scapeshift and is currently 7 tix or about 10 € if you require his services in physical form.
Other white rares of some renown include Reveillark and Sublime Archangel. The first, a beloved centerpiece of several Johnny-friendly creature combos, has been reprinted too many times for it to be worth more than one euro. On the other hand, the blonde angel is at her first reprint since her original M13 release. I always felt she never got her due, popularity-wise, since she is generally impactful and potentially game-ending in the proper deck. Maybe in virtue of her unexpressed potential, or just because she was previously a mythic, she never entirely suffered the shame of bulk status, still being sold at 1 tix on MTGO and $3 in paper.
A couple of additional cards with white identity that must be mentioned are Karakas and Celestial Colonnade. We'll comment on them more in the colorless section, but let's just say both are worth more than the price of a UMA booster in paper, and possibly twice as much, making them the most valuable white-related cards in the set.
PICTURES: Karakas; Celestial Colonnade
Cards: 51 (39 U, 4 W/U, 3 U/G, 2 U/B, 2 U/R, 1 B/U/G)
New art: 8 (6 U, 1 W/U, 1 U/G)
Box Toppers: 3 (2 U, 1 B/U/G)
That things fare much better for blue is immediately evident by looking at the cards with new art, which are either reprints of older cards not easily available in paper, or cards that see a large amount of play, or both. Greedy mana base punisher Back to Basics from Urza's Saga is a surefire booster-maker at its current price of 23 € in paper and 15 tix on MTGO, while Negate-on-wings Glen Elendra Archmage is a solid 7 € in paper, though just 30 cent in digital form. They might not be worth anything much, but Frantic Search, Foil and Slippery Bogle are all very playable cards that contributed to Magic history, and their new artworks are pleasant. And old geezer Unstable Mutation is at the very least beloved.
With so many worthy cards being given a graphical makeover, the ones simply reprinted feel in most cases less exciting, although there's some widely played spells in the lot, like Sleight of Hand and Laboratory Maniac. Of course the most buzz-worthy cards are the mythic Box Toppers couple of Snapcaster Mage and Temporal Manipulation, both upgraded to top rarity, the former in his Modern Masters 2017 reworked art not featuring the likeness of Tiago Chan anymore, the latter with art that previously appeared only for a Judge Rewards Promo, so it's sort of new as well.
The flashing blue Wizard, still sold in paper at 40 € despite its fairly recent Modern Masters 2017 reprint (it's only 7 tix on MTGO, though), is one of the most played cards in control decks; and if Temporal Manipulation is nothing else than the Portal Second Age simplified reprint of Time Warp, it's still useful for redundancy in Commander decks, so it was important to deliver it in the hands of a new generation of players for a reduced prize, since the relative obscurity of both the original printing and its promo version caused a secondary market price often superior to €30. MTGO players were helped by its past release as part of Masters Edition II, which generated a more affordable 2-tix buy price, while also the better-looking promo can be acquired from bots for little more than one ticket.
Like Snappy's presence suggests, there's definitely a self-mill or graveyard-as-a-resource theme in UMA blue, with Visions of Beyond as another sort of valuable representative with the 3 € of its paper version, but both the enfants terribles of Tarkir Standard, Dig Through Time and Treasure Cruise, are also there.
In the multicolored department, the most notable blue-featuring reprint is Leovold, Emissary of Trest, the only card in the set with more than two colors, and the third blue Box Topper. Originally released in Conspiracy: Take the Crown, and banned in Commander, provides a fairly popular method to stop the opponent's card-drawing ambitions in Vintage and Legacy. As such, it's been sold in the past for even more than €50, though it's currently priced around 15 €, which is still more than the UMA booster. On Magic Online, it's distributed via Treasure Chests and costs about 4 tix.
– To Be Continued –
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