Double or Nothing?

As anyone that is a fan of eternal formats will know, reprints are always in demand. Whether they are fetchlands, premium removal or format defining creatures, there are always players wanting to get their hands on the very best cards a format has to offer. This has (in the past) left Wizards of the Coast with the conundrum of how best to make more of these valuable cards more reliably available to the wider magic community.

Then, about seven years ago, Wizards announced the release of Modern Masters, a premium draft set that was full of valuable cards that had previously become very expensive on the secondary market (you know, that thing they don’t like to talk about but that is a huge part of the hobby). Unsurprisingly, the set was a huge success and players everywhere enjoyed the benefits of a great limited set that also helped open up the modern format to more players.

Since then, Wizards has followed up Modern Masters with many other Masters sets. Some, like Modern Master 3, were great. Others… well, weren’t. A combination of high-priced packs and unwanted or unnecessary reprints lead many to turn sour on the concept of Masters sets. Wizards kept trying to recapture the magic of that original Masters release, even going as for as to increase the number of Masters sets a year by double.

But after the release of Ultimate Masters in 2018, Wizards of the Coast stepped back from the idea. Many believed that they had realised that they had run the concept into the ground, and so decided to take a hiatus from the series as players were starting to get tired of the Master run. You probably heard it yourself in your LGS, with players lamenting the perceived near constant release of these expensive and often underwhelming sets.

For my part, I was sad to see them go. Not because they were always great, far from it. But because it meant we had one less way of getting valuable eternal format staple into players hands. I always wanted each Masters set to be huge success like the original, and see the concept succeed. Well, it appears that we might get another chance.

Last week, Wizards of the Coast announcing the upcoming release of Double Masters, a set that as they put it “is filled to the brim with powerful and popular reprints”. This 332 card set, which is slated for a August release will be the first Masters set in two years, and Wizards of the Coast are hoping to make it a success with the selling point that each booster pack will contain two rare or mythic rare cards in each pack!

Not only that, but its double everything. Double the rare slots, double the box toppers, double the first-picks in Draft. This is truly exciting news, but I have my reservations. I really want to be hyped for this set, but after subpar sets like Iconic Masters there is a fear that Double Masters might be less of a hit and more of a miss. So how does Wizards of the Coast avoid this?

Well, the first thing is to make sure there is more sort after cards in the set at all levels of rarity. The simple fact of the matter is that Masters boosters are more expensive than other booster packs, and their has to be a reason for that other than to make money. Don’t get me wrong, as a company Wizards of the Coast have ever right to make money. But this needs to be balanced with the expected satisfaction of the consumer.

If you were to spend around £10 to crack a pack, you would want to make sure you got moneys worth. If you were to open a Flusterstorm you would probably be quite happy with your result, as even if you didn’t want to play it you could trade it for something you actual wanted. However, if you spent that same £10 and got a Sphinx of Uthuun, you might be less than please with yourself. Now I can hear all the comments already. “The value of the rare is not the value of the pack”. “Packs are for Drafting, not cracking”. “Not every rare can be an expensive rare”. All valid criticisms. Expect they aren’t, and deep down you all know it!

Let’s take point one, “The value of the rare is not the value of the pack”. While it is true that the value of the pack is not solely determined by the value of its rare or mythic, if the pack is to be considered worth it the value must be somewhere. If you opened a Sphinx of Uthuun but you opened a Path to Exlie in one of your uncommon slots, you are more likely to forget that you just spent £10 to open a 40p rare. The thing is, that means the uncommons (and even the commons) have got to have some value either in price or in playability. An Abzan Falconer is great in a limited deck, but it isn’t going to do you much good when it come time to build your next Modern or Legacy deck.

Which brings me on to point two. “Packs are for Drafting, not cracking”. While this is very true, and people like Marshall Sutcliffe will be very disappointed in you if you just crack packs for value, it is hard to square that argument up with the high price point of the product. Wizards already release amazing limited focused sets every year, with their ‘draft matters’ line been particular great. The thing is these sets are about the same cost as a Standard booster pack, and are arguably a better limited experience. The fact is the price on Masters sets are so much higher because they are expected to have more desirable cards in them. After all, in Wizards own words their packs are “filled to the brim with powerful and popular reprints”.

Which brings me on to the final point. “Not every rare can be an expensive rare”. This is based on the design philosophy that by putting bad cards in limited packs, it trains players to avoid those bad cards as they will learn that they have little to no use in a successful deck. While this could be true for Standard limited formats, Masters sets are designed for more experienced players who are more than acquainted with how to Draft. Making them pay £30 or more to learn those lessons seems foolish when they could simple spend £10 to get the same experience. “But they get to play with more powerful cards” I hear you cry. But for that to be true the value of the pack most be comparable to its cost, which brings us back full circle to point one.

Now as a said earlier, I like Masters sets and want to see them succeed. I’m just worried Wizards will have another Iconic Masters on its hands rather than a Masters 2013. So how can they avoid that fate and make the return of Masters sets a success?

Well the set has got to have a decent number of sort after and valuable cards. Putting two rare or mythics in a pack is a great start, but those cards have got to be worth opening or people will be less willing to buy into the experience. This doesn’t mean that every card has to be Mana Drain level of valuable either.

After all, the cost of a card is not the only denotation of its value. If the cards in a pack are only worth about half the cost of the booster, but everyone of them is playable in an eternal format, players are less likely to be upset with their pulls. Make the set feel more like a decent personal cube than a one and done Draft set. Make every card choice powerful.

Thankfully, what we have seen from Double Masters so far has been very promising, with cards like Atraxa, Praetors’ Voice and Mana Crypt showing that the mythic slot is shaping up nicely. We will just have to wait and see what else is instore for us when Double Masters gets a little closer to release.

What do you think of Double Masters so far? What reprints are you hoping for? Do you hope that Masters set are here to stay? Why not let us know in the comments below. While you’re there you could like and subscribe to keep up to date with all we do here at Master of Magics.

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