Insider: Reacting to Iconic Masters

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Welcome back, readers!

This week we got a bit of a premature spoiling of the next Masters set, Iconic Masters, due out November 17, 2017. Rumors had already come out about this set, so it seems WoTC was forced to play their hand a bit earlier than anticipated—hence the brevity of their announcement. While it may be brief there is still plenty of information to glean from it.

  • They are releasing two Masters sets this year; this is unprecedented.
  • MSRP per pack is still $9.99.
  • There will be one premium card (aka foil) per pack.
  • The set size is 249 cards. This matches up with Eternal Masters, which had the following rarity breakdown:
    • 15 mythics
    • 53 rares
    • 80 uncommons
    • 101 commons
  • They are sticking with the 24-packs-per-box system for Iconic Masters.
  • It will include some of Magic's "most memorable" spells. More below on what that means.
  • It will include iconic Angels, Demons, Dragons, Hydras, and Sphinxes.

Let's see what we can learn from all this. I'll start with the last bullet point first, because it gives us the most new information.

The Iconic Tribes

Here's every card with one of those iconic creature types that's worth over $10 (equivalent to the MSRP of the packs).

That's not many. Breaking them down by type:

  • Angels - Just four Angels whose value exceeds $10, after you ignore the versions that are valuable solely due to extreme rarity (like Beta Serra Angel). All four were printed as mythics in their respective initial printing.
  • Demons - Thanks to his recent reprinting in Modern Masters 2017, even poor Griselbrand is below $10, leaving this category entirely blank.
  • Dragons - Unsurprisingly, Dragons are the biggest category with 7 cards. Two (Brimstone Dragon and Zodiac Dragon) are only valuable due to extreme scarcity. The first one was the result of the highly underprinted Portal: Second Age, and any reprinting will dump this guy to the bulk bin. Zodiac Dragon is more interesting. It has a unique ability and is commanding a $300 price tag despite seeing no competitive play in any format. It appears this one has more natural demand, which means it may stay over $10 with a reprint (though it will still drop considerably).
  • Hydras - Khalni Hydra would drop dramatically with a reprinting as its value is due principally to age and mythic rarity. I imagine a reprinting of this card drops it to $2. Progenitus, who has already been reprinted in From the Vault: Legends and the original Modern Masters, is the GP promo of 2017, so some versions are already below $10.

All in all, the list is pretty depressing, especially when you consider that a reprinting will likely drop the value of most of them to below $10. Assuming a reprint at mythic, the only ones I would expect to maintain a $10 price tag are Archangel of Thune, Avacyn, Angel of Hope, Consecrated Sphinx, Skithiryx, the Blight Dragon, and Zodiac Dragon.

That doesn't bode well for Iconic Masters if these are to be the key draws to the set. However, we need to consider the other important comment, the "memorable spells." This is where WoTC will need to bring their "A" game if they want the product to sell well.

Doubling Up in 2017

If this set is like the other Masters sets, they'll find a way to cram lots of value in while satisfying players of multiple different formats. That's nothing new. What is unprecedented is to see a second all-reprint release like this in one year.

I remember the concerns many players had when WoTC announced the original Modern Masters set way back in 2013. While many of those players weren't playing when Chronicles was released, it's not hard to grasp the concept that mass reprints kill card values and thus reduce the value of one's own collection. Our fears were assuaged by the tiny print run, which led to price rebounds relatively quickly.

Modern Masters 2015 saw a larger print run. While some of the key cards rebounded (like Noble Hierarch and Fulminator Mage) many did not (like Apocalypse Hydra, Daybreak Coronet, and Wilt-Leaf Liege).

Then we got Eternal Masters, which tanked the price of cards like Sneak Attack and Show and Tell. Most recently we got Modern Masters 2017 with an even larger print run than any before, which has obliterated prices on cards like Zur the Enchanter, Restoration Angel, and Venser, Shaper Savant.

Now, in the same year that we got Modern Masters 2017 with its massive print run (at this time there are only 15 non-foil cards in the set worth more than the MSRP), we get a second Masters set. That's a whole lot of $10-a-pack product in one year.

Too Much of a Good Thing?

I know my LGS is still trying to fire MM3 drafts as often as they can just to help move the product, because they are sitting on tons of it. I'm also seeing online retailers selling MM3 boxes for under $200, Massdrop with an option to purchase boxes in the $180 range as recently as April 8th, and stores selling the boxes on Facebook in the $175 range.

The point is that there is a ton of this product still floating around, and demand seems to be slowly dropping. MM3 is chock full of good cards, of course, so I don't know how much has to be thrown into Iconic Masters to compete with it.

The other concerning aspect about this is that it's not hard to see the reason for pushing these sets from WoTC's standpoint. Each set requires far less design work, as the cards are all reprints. There are no concerns about introducing broken new mechanics, messing up Standard, or interactions with past cards—just the need to provide at least a semi-enjoyable Limited experience. Each set can have a higher MSRP and has a good sales track record.

However, there's one factor that Wizards (or Hasbro) may be overlooking. Magic players' wallets are not endless, and you can easily overload the playerbase with product options.

Psychologists and economists have studied the concept of "too much choice" when it comes to products (you can see one such study here). This can result in players receding away from the game and choosing other hobbies due to the continual growing costs of the game and the barrage of new products they are expected to gobble up en masse. Even as I write this article, I'm drawn away from discussing the set itself, and more to the implications of WoTC's timing decisions.

If there is one thing directly related to this set to take away, it's to unload any extra copies of those iconic creatures over $10. I know I'm going to actively try to sell or trade off any copies I have, as reprints will seriously drop the prices of all of them (and likely crush most of them).

2 thoughts on “Insider: Reacting to Iconic Masters

  1. Thanks for the insight.

    I believe it’s a good thing to reprint these cards that people have locked away in their closet (myself included, not many extras either). The reprints seem to bring out the old players (who generally like the original prints) and adds a new pool of players which is ultimately what this game is all about: the gathering!

    1. Thanks. I have definitely pulled every extra copy of the cards on this list and put them up on my TCGplayer store and will also be looking to trade them off locally before the spoiler season hits, of course, there is risk that should one of the ones not be reprinted it may very well spike in value some, but that’s the risk we take.

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