A Thorough Look into Ultimate Masters - Part 2
- 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; this time is the turn of black and red.
Ultimate Masters is with us now, both digitally and physically. Last time, we directed our thorough look toward the white and blue cards (including multicolored). Now let's see what's noteworthy in black and red.
Cards: 51 (38 B, 4 B/R, 4 B/G, 2 W/B, 2 U/B, 1 U/B/G)
New art: 10 (9 B, 1 B/R)
Box Toppers: 11 (7 B, 2 B/G, 1 B/R, 1 U/B/G)
Black is 2nd only to green, the most represented color in Ultimate Masters, and one of those that enjoyed a luxury treatment, as proved by the quantity and quality of the new artworks and Box Toppers. We can find some truly memorable stuff in there. Demonic Tutor might have been reprinted plenty of times in the past, but it's such a must-play card in the formats where it's legal that you still aren't able to acquire a copy for less than 15 € in paper and 4 tickets online (thanks to Vintage Masters, but also to the Duel Decks: Divine vs. Demonic edition before that). On the other hand, Bitterblossom never became a thing in Modern since it was unbanned in February 2014, and yet it's about the same price as the greatest of tutors, despite a previous reprint in Modern Masters 2015 (where its rarity was first increased to mythic), so it should repay any UMA booster that contains it, at least in physical form. Plus, the new art by Jesper Ejsing is sweet, even if the Rebecca Guay original will probably remain the most iconic version.
The graveyard theme is, unsurprisingly, the primary force behind UMA black, prescribed by cards like Entomb, Reanimate, Buried Alive, Unburial Rites, Songs of the Damned and Bridge from Below, as well as several creatures with dredge, delve, or madness. Some of these are old geezers that still command significant prices in face of their wide availability in a plethora of versions throughout the years. The Entomb from Eternal Masters, for instance, is still sold for 7 € in paper and about 3.5 tix on MTGO, while the price for Reanimate was crushed into nothingness online by Vintage Masters, but it still should be worth two thirds of a physical UMA booster whenever it shows up.
Such a tombal environment makes more appealing even the obscure evoke critter Offalsnout, which is given a funny new art for the occasion. And of course, you're going to want to recur other fellow evokable creatures like Shriekmaw.
But we definitely buried the lead here, as black is of course the home of one of the most awaited UMA reprints, the one and only Liliana of the Veil.
And while the dark queen of planeswalkers is not as crazy expensive as she used to (even Liliana, the Last Hope is currently ahead of her in the digital realm), she's still going to be worth north of 60 € in paper and at least 20 tickets on MTGO. She's a mythic, though, so the influx of new copies shouldn't be large enough to take her value further down, even if Ultimate Masters is probably going to be drafted copiously no matter what. Her price decline at the moment is influenced by a series of factors, which include the fact that she was announced as part of the new set early on; should a near-future Modern meta favor her especially, her price is bound to spike again, since her effectiveness on the battlefield will never be anything less than stellar, even compared to that of her latest three-mana incarnation.
Another card that has, at one point, brought ruin to many a player's wallet is Fulminator Mage, aka recursive Stone Rain. Acquiring the Elemental Shaman was more of an issue on MTGO, though, due to a historically low supply of Shadowmoor/Eventide cards. The current digital price went as whoppingly high as 40 tix, though now, leading to its UMA reprint, it gravitates around a more affordable 3 tix. The paper version was never as expensive but didn't crash as hard either and should be worth at least 8 or 9 Euros.
The Golgari Swarm is represented by a couple of major cards, with Maelstrom Pulse ready to show cocky little brother Assassin's Trophy what one extra mana can do for you (namely, kill an entire army of tokens at once without ramping up the opponent). It might not be the single best piece of removal in the game anymore, and it's been greatly devalued down to one single tix online, but it's still capable of earning a seller 8 € for the original Alara Reborn version, and up to 9,50 € for the MMA version with John Avon art. Guild and set companion Lord of Extinction is more of a specialist finisher that strongly invites comboing, but it was never reprinted so far (if we exclude its extremely rare and weird-bordered foray into Amonkhet Invocations), so it's still worth 4 € in paper; unfortunately (for who's going to open a copy of it on MTGO), online it's barely 30 cents.
As mentioned last week, Box Topper Leovold, Emissary of Trest is the only card in the set featuring three colors, and one of those is black. The Conspiracy: Take the Crown mythic is a succulent 15 € in paper, 4 tix online affair.
Among the remaining monoblack rares, Mikaeus, the Unhallowed is surprisingly pricey in the paper world, selling for almost 10 €, while the more widely played delve star Tasigur, the Golden Fang is not worth much more than a handful of cents regardless of its material form.
Notable colorless cards with black identity: Phyrexian Tower comes to us directly from Urza's Saga, which is to say exactly from twenty years ago, and that version is still worth €15, so we can expect opening a UMA Tower will earn some happy drafter a conspicuous fraction of that booster (provided they weren't doing it online, as it's priced at just one tix and a half there). A little less valuable will be the universal swamper Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth, which is also a Box Topper; the original from Planar Chaos has 7,50 € as a starting price in paper, while its cost is as low as Phyrexian Tower's on MTGO.
Cards: 45 (35 R, 4 B/R, 2 W/R, 2 U/R, 2 R/G)
New art: 9 (6 R, 1 W/R, 1 B/R, 1 R/G)
Box Toppers: 3 (2 R, 1 B/R)
Red joins white as the other Cinderella color of Ultimate Masters. Seismic Assault and Through the Breach, both sporting new art, are great centerpieces in their respective decks, but only the latter is some of a money card, at 10 € in paper, but only 2 tix online. Very old, very unreliable tutor Gamble, mostly used in Legacy Lands builds, where Life from the Loam nicely counterbalances its downside, was already reprinted in Eternal Masters two years ago, and it's worth just 3 € in paper, 30 cents on MTGO. At 1 € for the Kamigawa paper version, Lava Spike makes for a juicy common, due to the prevalence of Burn across the formats. It seems inevitable for that price to crash further, though.
Seismic Assault reminds us of red's discard/madness theme that's enabled through cards like Reckless Wurm and Squee, Goblin Nabob (the latter is worth 1 € in paper, 50 cents online), while the classic Burn theme has Vexing Devil as the most notable representative; the annoying sucker is 4,75 € in paper, and one full ticket to secure his antics in digital version.
The red territory in UMA is sort of a barren wasteland, with no card able to repay its booster, and very few to repay any considerable portion of it. Even the only red mythic, Balefire Dragon, is kind of preposterous, as it's one of those big finishers that are played only casually. Still, it's worth almost 5 € in paper (but just 10 cents online), and it's one of the color's only three Box Toppers, the others being the abovementioned Through the Breach and the already assessed Fulminator Mage.
While still not being worth one booster's cost, the black/red land destroyer is something you are going to be happy to take home after a UMA prerelease event, but that's not true of any of the other Rakdos cards. Old Birthing Pod pal Murderous Redcap is cool and all, but it's just an uncommon, worth basically nothing. Indeed some of the multicolored featuring red, such as Double Cleave and Rakdos Shred-Freak, feel like very weird choices. They're neither valuable nor historical cards, and only vaguely useful in a Limited environment. And did we really need to reprint Dominaria's Garna, the Bloodflame already? Is that even something people played, ever?
– To Be Continued –
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