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Insider: A Deeper Look at Masterpieces

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In today's article I will revisit the Masterpiece series from WoTC. We've now had six sets come out with these "ultra rare" chase cards, which means lots of data and comparisons to make.

First I wanted to look at the Masterpiece price when compared to the most recent (non-promotional) printing price. I'm using TCG Market Price because it was easy to gather when I was pulling the data, (which all had to be done manually), and it is supposed to represent the most realistic price.

I then took the TCG Market price for the most recent non-promotional version of each card and compared the price differentials. I specifically went with non-promotional because, for a few older cards, there was a cheap original printing and a much more expensive promotional printing which was the more recent option (mainly Diabolic Edict and Capsize).

Masterpiece TCG Market Price Most Recent Printing TCG Market Price Percentage of Most Recent Price
Ancient Tomb 127.43 32.32 394.28%
Arid Mesa 93.14 24.94 373.46%
Blood Crypt 46.57 8.62 540.26%
Bloodstained Mire 85.19 17.07 499.06%
Breeding Pool 57.44 11.69 491.36%
Canopy Vista 19.94 1.49 1338.26%
Cascade Bluffs 33.58 18.15 185.01%
Cinder Glade 23.78 1.89 1258.20%
Dust Bowl 24.02 9.63 249.43%
Eye of Ugin 45.05 6.02 748.34%
Fetid Heath 36.81 23.58 156.11%
Fire-Lit Thicket 30.17 11.42 264.19%
Flooded Grove 38.37 18.59 206.40%
Flooded Strand 120.48 13.57 887.84%
Forbidden Orchard 29.57 4.88 605.94%
Godless Shrine 65.06 10.67 609.75%
Graven Cairns 26.2 8.6 304.65%
Hallowed Fountain 54.43 6.89 789.99%
Horizon Canopy 108.47 77.87 139.30%
Kor Haven 25.17 7 359.57%
Mana Confluence 45.4 6.29 721.78%
Marsh Flats 81.01 26.12 310.15%
Misty Rainforest 147.82 27.21 543.26%
Mystic Gate 40.69 19.4 209.74%
Overgrown Tomb 64.82 10.02 646.91%
Polluted Delta 164.39 17.08 962.47%
Prairie Stream 24 1.8 1333.33%
Rugged Prairie 32.97 21.21 155.45%
Sacred Foundry 50.5 14.54 347.32%
Scalding Tarn 185.21 49.38 375.07%
Smoldering Marsh 18.34 1.61 1139.13%
Steam Vents 67.74 10.36 653.86%
Stomping Ground 54.42 14.67 370.96%
Strip Mine 58.03 24.81 233.90%
Sunken Hollow 19.68 1.56 1261.54%
Sunken Ruins 35.73 17.77 201.07%
Tectonic Edge 23.37 1.15 2032.17%
Temple Garden 50.63 8.53 593.55%
Twilight Mire 50.79 28.05 181.07%
Verdant Catacombs 144.02 39.33 366.18%
Wasteland 90.19 24.67 365.59%
Watery Grave 59.02 14.12 417.99%
Windswept Heath 85.01 10.82 785.67%
Wooded Bastion 29.73 13 228.69%
Wooded Foothills 76.5 15.16 504.62%
Aether Vial 110.12 41.96 262.44%
Arcbound Ravager 73.62 33.9 217.17%
Black Vise 16.72 3.14 532.48%
Cataclysmic Gearhulk 16.81 0.8 2101.25%
Chalice of the Void 147.27 78.61 187.34%
Champion's Helm 23.4 10.75 217.67%
Chromatic Lantern 66.11 7.76 851.93%
Chrome Mox 43.37 13.43 322.93%
Cloudstone Curio 25.82 9.55 270.37%
Combustible Gearhulk 21.65 1.77 1223.16%
Crucible of Worlds 134.83 64.68 208.46%
Defense Grid 23.05 5.43 424.49%
Duplicant 25.08 3.01 833.22%
Engineered Explosives 104.4 46.84 222.89%
Ensnaring Bridge 81.47 38.07 214.00%
Extraplanar Lens 33.78 14.92 226.41%
Gauntlet of Power 32.79 16.46 199.21%
Grindstone 23.85 9.69 246.13%
Hangarback Walker 39.15 3.72 1052.42%
Lightning Greaves 58.07 4.76 1219.96%
Lotus Petal 82.03 29.65 276.66%
Mana Crypt 144.4 59.94 240.91%
Mana Vault 118.54 15.3 774.77%
Meekstone 23.38 3.7 631.89%
Mind's Eye 21.08 14.55 144.88%
Mox Opal 142.43 55.98 254.43%
Noxious Gearhulk 28.65 2.38 1203.78%
Oblivion Stone 45.94 14.73 311.88%
Ornithopter 54.55 0.15 36366.67%
Painter's Servant 24.04 10.56 227.65%
Paradox Engine 40.4 5.84 691.78%
Pithing Needle 58.49 2.97 1969.36%
Planar Bridge 30.53 1.77 1724.86%
Platinum Angel 47.5 3.79 1253.30%
Rings of Brighthearth 47.47 27.32 173.76%
Scroll Rack 47.87 33.29 143.80%
Sculpting Steel 27.46 7.81 351.60%
Sol Ring 194.86 3.36 5799.40%
Solemn Simulacrum 50.32 4.22 1192.42%
Sphere of Resistance 32.74 17.65 185.50%
Staff of Domination 40.13 20.89 192.10%
Static Orb 24.87 6.31 394.14%
Steel Overseer 69.04 11.63 593.64%
Sundering Titan 23.31 3.76 619.95%
Sword of Body and Mind 42.24 10.52 401.52%
Sword of Feast and Famine 86.67 23.09 375.36%
Sword of Fire and Ice 77.53 42.65 181.78%
Sword of Light and Shadow 67.28 26.19 256.89%
Sword of War and Peace 47.83 14.11 338.98%
Torrential Gearhulk 49.42 18.95 260.79%
Trinisphere 27.16 10.53 257.93%
Vedalken Shackles 26.76 10.42 256.81%
Verdurous Gearhulk 31.16 5.14 606.23%
Wurmcoil Engine 56.97 12.91 441.29%
Aggravated Assault 24.7 12.38 199.52%
Armageddon 29.29 5.01 584.63%
Attrition 19.52 6.92 282.08%
Austere Command 25.83 9.94 259.86%
Avatar of Woe 19.57 1.56 1254.49%
Aven Mindcensor 20.57 0.6 3428.33%
Blood Moon 88.65 15.35 577.52%
Boil 19.28 0.76 2536.84%
Bontu the Glorified 28.63 3 954.33%
Capsize 27.57 1.59 1733.96%
Chain Lightning 22.07 2.73 808.42%
Choke 21.09 2.34 901.28%
Consecrated Sphinx 48.99 21.93 223.39%
Containment Priest 32.79 11.86 276.48%
Counterbalance 20.16 6.96 289.66%
Counterspell 40.64 1.5 2709.33%
Cryptic Command 52.3 29.08 179.85%
Damnation 66.25 16.59 399.34%
Dark Ritual 34.57 2.79 1239.07%
Daze 53.12 1.97 2696.45%
Desolation Angel 23.07 1.2 1922.50%
Diabolic Edict 21.17 1.57 1348.41%
Diabolic Intent 27.36 14.87 183.99%
Divert 13.25 13.22 100.23%
Doomsday 31.49 3.99 789.22%
Entomb 33.69 10.76 313.10%
Forbid 20.73 2.38 871.01%
Force of Will 157.43 72.14 218.23%
Hazoret the Fervent 35.06 5.77 607.63%
Kefnet the Mindful 31.22 3.16 987.97%
Lord of Extinction 28.49 15.34 185.72%
Loyal Retainers 24.12 25.55 94.40%
Maelstrom Pulse 36.99 19.46 190.08%
Mind Twist 24.6 2.7 911.11%
No Mercy 29.61 16.27 181.99%
Oketra the True 26.72 2.83 944.17%
Omniscience 70.07 20.94 334.62%
Opposition 26.22 4.02 652.24%
Pact of Negation 48.13 29.42 163.60%
Rhonas the Indomitable 46.57 10.5 443.52%
Shatterstorm 17.05 2.94 579.93%
Slaughter Pact 25.43 4.91 517.92%
Spell Pierce 30.23 0.34 8891.18%
Stifle 22.54 3.8 593.16%
Sunder 18.85 4.44 424.55%
The Locust God 46.92 8.3 565.30%
The Scarab God 73.94 14.32 516.34%
The Scorpion God 35.79 4.59 779.74%
Thoughtseize 116 20.25 572.84%
Threads of Disloyalty 17.92 5.48 327.01%
Through the Breach 59.72 36.99 161.45%
Vindicate 25.61 4.46 574.22%
Worship 19.55 7.42 263.48%
Wrath of God 41.99 6.3 666.51%

If we are going to speculate on these pieces, then it would be wise to find the ones with the lower percentage difference. This will represent the fact that the most recent regular version is close in price to the Masterpiece. So, continuing to filter down and looking at all the Masterpieces in which the percent difference is under 200%, we are down to:What is really interesting is that many of the cards with the highest percentages are not due to the Masterpiece being extremely valuable, but instead due to the most recent printing being so cheap. If we ignore all Masterpieces in which the most recent printing is under $5, then the average percent difference is around 362%.

Of these options, only the ones with the * have more than one other printing besides the Masterpiece itself. The reason I bring this up is that an older card with a single printing is more likely to have a high price based on scarcity than playable demand. This is the same reason many of the Portal: Three Kingdoms cards are extremely valuable despite many seeing little to no play.

I dislike speculating on cards whose price may be heavily influenced on collectibility rather than playability—otherwise you might end up with a graph like Sun Quan, Lord of Wu, which tanked when the FTV: Legends set came out.


Breaking Demand Down by Format

Another factor I want to look at is what format the cards are played in. In Modern, Legacy, or Vintage, players will often need four copies of a card and thus one player creates demand for four copies. Whereas in something like Commander, one player is more likely to create demand for one copy (although obviously they may want certain cards in multiple decks).

Constructed Eternal

So with this in mind, let's focus on the cards that see play in Modern/Legacy/Vintage. That leaves us with the following.

Now one big challenge regarding eternal foils is that many players/traders that I've run into prefer the original pack foil when foiling out a deck. So there are likely many "foilers" who won't touch these Masterpieces.

Commander

The other option I want to look at is demand from the Commander crowd. While my co-writer Niels has less confidence in the data behind EDHREC (and I feel his argument definitely has some valid points), it is still the best source of information regarding Commander card demand in my opinion. Thus I will continue to use it for data mining.

In this step we look at the number of decks a given card shows up in on EDHREC. As our focus is on top-level demand as opposed to how many different types of decks make use of the card, we will focus on the "Number of Decks" figure.

Masterpiece # of Decks (on EDHREC)
Loyal Retainers 689
Horizon Canopy 1204
Scroll Rack 6190
Mind's Eye 5926
Rugged Prairie 3183
Fetid Heath 3576
Through the Breach 64
Pact of Negation 6320
Rings of Brighthearth 6785
Cryptic Command 8372
Twilight Mire 3358
Sword of Fire and Ice 5817
No Mercy 2948
Diabolic Intent 3904
Cascade Bluffs 3715
Sphere of Resistance 1222
Lord of Extinction 1829
Chalice of the Void 125
Maelstrom Pulse 3093
Staff of Domination 3057
Gauntlet of Power 6136
Aggravated Assault 3130

By filtering in this regard we can get a "big picture" look at the likelihood we will see a demand increase for any given Masterpiece from the Commander crowd. Again, we want to focus on the cards in the higher end of the spectrum (say 3000+). Which leaves us with a smaller pool from which to speculate from:

What is interesting here is that we do have a few cards that appear on both lists (marked with an * above). So if you wanted to speculate on Masterpieces these might be your best options. To recap, 1) they are the closest in price to the most recent printing, and 2) they see demand from both eternal "playset" formats and Commander.

Now this isn't to say that this is the only way to look at speculating on the Masterpieces. There is one other very important factor with premium foil cards like this, and that is of course the picture on the card itself. While people often prefer original artwork, there are definitely instances in which newer artwork commands a premium.


With this in mind I will admit I seem to fall into the majority that dislikes most of the Invocations from the Amonkhet block (though to be fair it's not so much the artwork on all of them as it is the text for the card name). As many people I've talked to seem to be in the same boat, I am less willing to speculate on the Invocations. I would prefer to park money into the Zendikar Expeditions or Kaladesh Inventions. Ironically, most of the ones that made the final list are in fact Invocations.

Another way to look at Masterpiece speculation is to remember that they are very rare and prices of many of the cheaper ones don't reflect much on the actual rarity.

I actually considered going down this route myself, and picking up the cheapest ones that at least see marginal Commander play. If I were to do this, I'd probably take a simple basket approach (i.e. invest in a few copies of a bunch of things, and any losses are hopefully offset by larger gains from successful ones).

Conclusion

One thing I hope you draw from this article is the importance of making decisions based on data (though I do know there are some who go by "gut"). I always try to use some sort of data analysis when making any financial decisions, whether it's comparing the prices of laundry detergent across competitors or determining how much I can comfortably spend on a new car based on my current income and current expenses.

By now have a lot of data points (or at least it feels that way when you have to look up every single card manually) to compare the various Masterpieces and get a good idea of where they might be headed. Now that WoTC has backtracked on their "Masterpieces in every set" plan, these may end up being rarer than we expected. There could very well be a price correction in the near future for some of these cards.

I will also admit that because these are meant to "pimp out" decks, the artwork may play a much larger role in determining actual demand. Unfortunately that is a matter of opinion, and thus extremely difficult to quantify with the tools currently on hand.

10 thoughts on “Insider: A Deeper Look at Masterpieces

  1. I’m impressed by the thorough research you had to do to write this article. Thank you for summarizing all this data – it’s something I was very curious about but never wanted to invest the time in studying myself.

    Now my question: you crunch all these numbers and generate all this data, but I don’t see your final recommendations. You have asterisks next to a few, but which one or two would you recommend buying right now? If it were me, I’d look at your favorite choices in that final list and investigate which ones have the lowest stock on TCG Player…that would probably be my ultimate factor.

    Lastly, I think you may be overweighing Eternal play relative to Commander play. i.e. I believe Commander play is a more significant factor. Perhaps the one exception would be Modern Affinity cards, since about half that deck can be built with all Masterpieces now!

    1. Thanks Sigmund. I wouldn’t fault you if you wanted to invest more in the commander choices above (for the record I like Mind’s Eye and Gauntlet of Power, simply because the masterpieces are only around 1.5x-2x the price of the regular version, though I’m not sure about the artwork for Mind’s Eye).

  2. Being the best source for something doesn’t necessarily equate to being a good source ;). I may be your best source on Magic play in Amsterdam, but I am certainly not a good source.

    I’m with Sig, the research on this is impressive. I don’t mind there being no definite recommendation, looking at the data I don’t really have one either. Where I strongly disagree with him is on what is being overweighed, if anything I would weigh Commander even less.

    Yes, there are Commander players who pimp. There are far more Commander players who just play with what they own. If they do pick up extra cards that one $20 Masterpiece represents twenty $1 cards they could also buy, that’s 1/5th of a deck! They may not literally think that, but for most the extra expenditure is not going to look worthwhile.

    Add to this that you need 4x as many Commander decks for the card to be played in to get the same kind of rise as for a tournament playable card, while Commander players don’t suddenly all jump on a card like tournament players do. They’ll find they need a certain card one at a time and copies slowly disappear from the market as a result.

    Cards that entice both the competitive and casual crowd certainly make the most interesting targets, but I would certainly value competitive interest much higher for these.

    1. Thanks Pi…I definitely admit that I was hoping the data might point out some really obvious picks, but in the end it is what it is. I haven’t bought any Masterpieces yet simply because I don’t have a desire to foil any decks out (as I am more prone to change/alter/or take apart decks more often than keep them in tact for extensive periods of time), however, I’ve seen a lot of people talking about them and stores seem to be hoarding them..when I see them pop up on Facebook sell groups they usually get a lot of attention and purchases.

    2. My counter to your comment, pi, is that Sol Ring has been one of the few Masterpieces that spiked and solidly held its price. Many others spike then pull back shortly thereafter. We all know the % decks that run Sol Ring in EDH….it’s not Vintage players driving demand for that one!

      1. Sol Ring may be an outlier though…it is one of (if not THE) most commonly played cards in every commander deck, so using it as justification may skew your data…similar to if we had a Brainstorm Invocation and we wanted to argue that Legacy staples were in super high demand (I know we have FoW, but it’s a valuable card already..whereas regular BS’s are in a similar price range as Sol Ring).

        1. I don’t have to show a colored card because that is handicapping my argument. My argument is that cards that see a ton of play in Commander are best to target for Masterpieces. That usually mean the most versatile cards, being artifact cards can go in any deck. In fact we have invocation Legacy cards that aren’t popping like many EDH Masterpiece staples.

          Granted, the artwork and card frame differences have much to do with this.

          1. They are only better to target, which is just common sense as more play equals better target regardless of format. Our point is that Sol Ring skews the numbers because few if any cards get played more, as such it only gives you a data point for (almost) non-existent comparable cards.

            Btw, that’s not an argument, it’s an hypothesis.

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