Iconic Masters Mythics and More
- Dr. Hans Joachim Höh
What could be more iconic than the mythic rares in a set called Iconic Masters?
I am back from my well-deserved time-out - refreshed and motivated to dive right back into the action! While master wordsmith Tobi was holding the fort against the incoming tide of pirates, I was enjoying the last days of the dwindling summer at a quiet lake in the Swiss mountains.
Thank you, Tobi, for doing a wonderful job in the meantime! Time wasn't standing still though and due to Hascon and its super-early Iconic Masters Prerelease, we have lots of new/old cards to discuss.
Let's start with some general thoughts though. In recent months we have witnessed Wizards changing course - withdrawing from more than one of their comparably new stances, which they had taken on design, release schedules, and organized play in the years before. After a chain of problematic Standard formats, we are now getting back Modern and even Legacy at the Pro Tour level, but we are also seeing the return of cheap answers and even card selection to Standard. Ixalan's Duress, Spell Pierce, and Opt continue the trend Abrade started, and they will shape the Standard format for the better.
We have also witnessed the change from “Masterpieces in every set going forward” to “Masterpieces when they make sense thematically” after a very short time already. Masters sets have evolved from an unique occurrence to a yearly phenomenon, with this year even getting an additional Masters set. All of these changes should be a warning to us that other changes might be waiting for us in the future. I believe one Masters set per year already to be too much to be a sustainable business model in the long run, and the extra set this year might make this obvious for Wizards and everybody else as well. There was a huge spike in player numbers in the past, which helped increase card prices of old cards, but the amount of reprintable expensive old cards is finite. Recent sets have not been great at producing high value Modern cards because player numbers have been stagnating (which is normal because there can't be infinite growth). Each reprint will make the expensive old cards much more available, causing their prices to drop. How often can you reprint them before they have lost too much value for Wizards to be able to sell them together with a bunch of bulk in 8 € Booster packs? The financial success of Iconic Masters and Masters 25 will probably determine how often we will see Masters sets in the future. I will do the math on the complete set and the average booster value as soon as there are enough listed cards – which leads us to another important point:
Iconic Masters releases two months from now. The entire set being known so early is an unprecedented case for a Masters Set, and I am not sure that is a great thing. Some of the money you can earn during presale is generated by the traditional daily dose of set revealing. Every day there is hype for just a few cards, and you can charge “too much” for some of the mediocre cards because nobody can do the math on the entire set, yet. This time the whole information is out there two months in advance, and the excitement of getting the entire set list at the same time is going to wear off fast. All of these points together could lead to booster prices reaching a new record low for a Masters set, while traders try to unload their boxes in time to order Masters 25, which I expect to end up with a higher average pack value.
Let's dive into the details of the set. The mythic rares might look decent at first glance, but there is a glaring problem. Nearly all of them are kitchen table cards which are cool to own as 1-ofs but don't see any tournament play. These kind of cards tend to lose a lot of value on reprint. Archangel of Thune, and Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker are 1-ofs in Modern decks which get played very rarely nowadays. Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite is a 1-of in Legacy reanimator sideboards. The only mythic that sees play as a 4-of in tournament decks is Primeval Titan, which was only a 10 € card before and has now dropped down to the price for an Iconic Masters pack.
The lonely beacon of hope in the mythic section is Mana Drain, one of the most iconic and powerful cards ever printed.
Too bad that it is banned in Legacy and even Duel Commander. The few remaining Vintage enthusiasts probably already have all the copies they desire, which leaves us with multiplayer Commander fans as the only realistic target audience for Mana Drain. With Italian Legends copies starting at 55 € (and trending downwards), I can't see the freshly printed copies selling very well for the 100 € they are currently listed at. The new picture might make more sense than the old one, and the added flavor text is great, but who would prefer the new one at this price? The only allure to finally pick up a copy for a cube or Commander deck will be a reduced price. I expect a price trajectory similar to Karakas, which was also a Legends uncommon, but actually sees much more play due to its relevance in Legacy.
The mythics of Iconic Masters failed us – will the rares be able to do better? Check back soon to find out.