Eternal Masters has been the talk of the paper Magic community, but it has major implications for MTGO players, collectors and speculators as well. The last time we had a draftable eternal set---Vintage Masters---it created a new online format, cratered the prices of Legacy and Classic reprints, and created strong demand for staples that were omitted from the set.
Vintage Masters (VMA) was so heavily drafted that it created a new floor for a whole set of cards that had never been released in large supply. Many of these have rebounded nicely since. This volatility created a ton of opportunities, and savvy QS insiders cleaned up. My article series in the run-up to VMA helped identify some of the signposts, and I'll be doing that again with Eternal Masters (EMA).
A Long Time Coming
When the card list for VMA was announced, I speculated that the absence of several obvious reprints signaled it was "only a matter of time before we see an announcement of the next virtual-only summer set: Legacy Masters. (Of course, it could take a couple years, and a lot will happen before then…)"
I was wrong. It wasn't virtual only. But it's finally here. Buckle your seat belts cause we’re in for another wild ride...
The unfortunate news is that MTGO moves so quickly that the market has already responded to the EMA announcement. If you haven’t acted yet you’ve already missed the early action on obvious plays like selling Wasteland and Force of Will or buying dual lands.
In retrospect, the best time to act was before the announcement, when Legacy Leagues were first announced. (Lots of folks in the forums advised this, so be sure you're taking advantage of that resource available to QS Insiders.)
The good news is that there are still plenty of plays to make in the coming weeks to mitigate losses from potential reprints and maximize gains from cards that remain in low supply.
One caveat: speculating on eternal cards usually requires a larger bankroll and does not provide the "sure bet" of speculating on rotation and boosters. It can be a high-performing part of your MTGO portfolio, but be careful about getting too much exposure to cards that can be reprinted at any time.
With that in mind, let’s get started.
Lessons from Vintage Masters
Vintage Masters created a whole new format on MTGO (Vintage) and increased the accessibility of Legacy. There are some parallels here---Legacy leagues kicked off this week and should revive Legacy as a format online.
The arrival of Pauper leagues in October led to a dramatic rise in prices across the format. Similarly, Legacy leagues should drive demand for a variety of staples. The barriers to entry are higher compared to Pauper, so I don’t expect the same price leaps, but we’ve already seen increased demand for dual lands and other staples.
The looming uncertainty of EMA reprints will somewhat dampen the enthusiasm to buy in to Legacy at the moment and put a lid on speculative activity. Because of this, we can expect a round of major spikes after the full EMA set list is released. When Wasteland did not appear on the VMA set list, its price spiked from 65 tix to 100 tix within hours, and hit 150 tix a few weeks later.
The key is to be holding the right cards at that moment, as prices will adjust very quickly.
What will be reprinted?
Here’s what we know about Eternal Masters:
- Paper and digital release (unlike VMA). This means designers will have to consider equities and scarcity in both paper and digital market.
- EMA will contain VMA cards that are expensive in paper but cheap in digital, and vice versa.
- MTGO release of EMA will be June 17.
- It is designed with Commander, Vintage and Legacy in mind.
- No Reserve List cards will appear in EMA. I expect there to be a lot of chase Commander cards in paper that won’t be worth much online.
- EMA is designed to be drafted. Good luck finding a draft at your local game store, but online there will be no cap to how much is drafted. Drafting will last for three weeks. Like VMA, I wouldn’t be surprised if the draft window were extended or if EMA were flashed back.
- Cost of digital packs will be $6.99 (same as VMA and Modern Masters). Interesting that they made them $2 cheaper than paper packs.
- Based on VMA, I'd expect the full card list for EMA to drop in late May. We will get a stream of previews starting in April and May, after the Shadows Over Innistrad release.
- The set will include Wasteland at Rare and Force of Will at Mythic.
- The art for Wasteland is a wasted-away City of Brass (this one has no financial implications whatsoever, but is just plain cool).
Another key piece of information we have is the complete flashback draft schedule through June. It includes only Modern-era sets. That means that if an older card is not in EMA, it is almost certainly not entering the market through other means until June. In the announcement, Lee Sharpe notes, "We won't make it all the way through Modern, but we'll keep going (absent breaks for set releases) until we run out of weeks in the year!"
I'm interpreting that to mean that they will keep going with Modern set releases through December---it was announced, after all, as "The Year of Modern Flashbacks." That said, there's always a chance they sprinkle in a week of Vintage Masters or Tempest Remastered drafts.
Based on this information---and with no further speculation---we can create a basket of cards that should go up. (I posted a modified list of these a week ago in the forum. Again, that’s the best place to track real-time developments.)
The blue duals have already jumped in price. But there may be some room for growth among the others, which still find their way into decks.
Prices on these seem lower than they should be given the frequency with which these are played in top decks. As do these:
We know that none of these cards will be reprinted because they are on the Reserve List. At current prices, every one of these cards represents a fairly safe buy, and some seem like a sure-fire profit.
What Will the Set Include?
What cards represent a high reprint risk? We can make some educated guesses based on what we know of the goals for this set. There's some good prognostication on the QS forum on this topic.
If you think a reprint is likely, you should look to part with the card in question over the next few weeks. Let’s be clear: we are not panic-selling here. If you don’t like the price, wait a bit. We have four months of Vintage leagues before EMA hits the marketplace.
With that in mind, here are some early bets:
First, we have a list of cards from the person who leaked the Splinter Twin/Amulet of Vigor ban and leaked the release of EMA. Normally I don’t put too much weight in anonymous leaks, but this person has a pretty impressive track record. Here’s a quote from the reddit post:
Cards I know are in the set: Port, Stoneforge.
Cards I know via verbal communication: Zen fetches, Mother of Runes, Lotus Petal, Infernal Tutor, Cabal Ritual, a piece of the elf deck, Sneak and/or Show, Judgment wishes.
These all seem plausible, and would have been on my watch list, so let’s keep these front and center.
In particular, Rishadan Port is not on the Reserve List, and is in low supply in both paper and digital. It's a key piece in the aggressive decks, which are an otherwise cheap entry point for new players. And it’s at 180 tix right now, so I would look to unload these sooner rather than later.
Another key set of reprints could be the Zendikar fetchlands, which the leaker claims are in the set:
Based on conversations in the forum and David Schumann's insightful piece, here are some other cards to keep an eye on:
Again, we aren't panic-selling here. They can't reprint all of these, and there will be the usual numbers crunch as they try to balance Limited (heavy on creatures) with the desire to provide something to all players: Commander, Vintage, Legacy, Modern and casual.
This should be a great set. Let's go earn some tix for free drafts! Keep a close eye on the forums as things unfold.