TWR: Thoughts on Ultimate Masters

Earlier in the year, Wizards of the Coast had said that Masters sets were not performing as expected, the community had made it clear that some of the reprints were not desirable while many cards that are super expensive were not making their way to these sets. Masters 25 which released earlier this year was said to be their best offering to date, and they went ahead and increased the price saying using that justification. The set ended up being a bit of a flop. There were some cool cards reprinted while most of it was chaff. The company said this was because Masters sets are meant to be drafted, but honestly the focus of these sets were supposed to give Modern players reprints and new weapons to use. It was also a beneficial set for Commander players who want reprints of cards deemed too expensive.

A while back, Guilds of Ravnica released and with it a “Mythic Edition” that was not well received by the community. It was sold only through Hasbro Direct and was rather expensive. In it, you got “super art” reprints of Planeswalkers, and then some boosters of the new set. Apparently it was sold out very quickly and people had issues with the website or didn’t get to order at all. Wizards took it upon themselves to then send some “Ultimate Box Toppers” to those who were negatively impacted by the purchase. Thought this is a good PR move, this does kind of feel like a slap in the face to those of us who said “fuck that” to buying one of these boxes. We thought it was overpriced, and we were not then subsequently rewarded for trying to buy said product. Whatever the case, those Ultimate Box Toppers are going to be available to the public, so at least that’s something. The caveat here is that you have to buy a box of their new product, Ultimate Masters, in which you’ll get one of these super art reprints. Here’s what we know so far:

Ultimate Masters releases December 7th, and will be the last Masters product “for a while.” Each booster box will contain 24-packs, with each pack containing a premium foil.

  • MSRP is $335.76 / box ($13.99/pack).
  • Boxes are only available at Local Gaming Stores, but each comes with an “Ultimate Box Topper” buy-a-box promo, which is a near borderless foil promo.
  • There are 40 box toppers in total.
  • UMA packs will be available at big box stores for $34.99 for 3 packs.
  • UMA is printed in EN and JP languages, but available worldwide.
  • Spoilers are on November 19th and 20th, with the full set reveal on Nov 21.

MSRP for this set is ridiculous once again. We thought the Mythic Edition of GRN was bad, but this is almost $100 more, and you only get one super art card instead of a set. Seems like a bad value. Rumor has it that local game stores are actually selling these boxes for somewhere in the ballpark of $240, so that’s at least a bit better. The other good news is that though you won’t get a super art card if you don’t buy a box, they are not buy-a-box promos in that regular versions of those cards are in packs. There are a ton of good reprints that have been revealed so far, and I’m sure there will be more for us to look forward to once we get the spoilers later this month. The super art cards are absolutely gorgeous though. Take a look:

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I want nearly every card displayed here, so I’m more hyped for this set than I was for M25 or Iconic Masters. I’m just hoping that the reprints mean a drop in price for some of these cards so that I can get extra copies. Packs are a bit expensive so I probably won’t buy many, opting for singles instead. I still think these should have been included as chase cards in packs, basically a new masterpiece set, but I’m okay with normal art as long as I get some good cards. Where Wizards is going from here is anyone’s guess. It appears there won’t be Masters sets next year, and we only know about two more sets on Ravnica. I’m hoping for a second Battlebond set, and would prefer a new plane to explore next year rather than another return to an old one. I guess we’ll see.

What do you think about this set? What about price increases? Let me know in the comments.

TWR: Looking Forward to Guilds of Ravnica

Guilds of Ravnica is the next major set to release for Magic: The Gathering, coming early next month on October 5th. Some things have changed with this new set, and as usual I like to cover the spoilers while spoiler season is still hot. However, because of the breadth of things I have to talk about, I’m going to save my thoughts on spoilers from the core of the set for after the full spoilers are released. Today, I want to talk about some of the supplemental products that are releasing around this set, because there are some things of interest that I rather like and some stuff that I don’t. This block (this set, and the two coming next year) is set in the plane of Ravnica, which is host to a city of guilds (comprised of our ten two-color pairings). This is the third visit to the plane, the first being back in 2005 when I wasn’t playing the game, with Ravnica: City of Guilds, and Return to Ravnica that released in 2012, also during the time that I wasn’t playing. 6 years later, here we are again.

As has become the norm as of Dominaria’s release there is once again an exclusive buy-a-box promo card. My girlfriend gifted me a box of Dominaria so I have a copy of Firesong & Sunspeaker which was a cool card if not a little underpowered. The promo card for Core Set 2019 ended up being a better card, though Nexus of Fate is very similar to cards that already exist (I didn’t want to buy a box of this either). #MTGGRN has another middle of the pack card that is interesting, but probably only usable in Commander. I could see this card ending up in my Yisan, The Wanderer Bard Deck:

A card with ten CMC and three pips is hard to include in a deck even in the Commander format, but one of the featured mechanics (which happens to be a returning mechanic) makes this more intriguing. The Convoke keyword allows you to tap creatures to help pay for the mana cost, so in creature heavy decks, or those with token strategies should be able to reliably cast this in mid-to-late game scenarios for just the three green mana. Better still would be to cheat it into play without having to rely on Convoke, but either way a 16/16 Indestructible is pretty good. I think for ten mana it should have Trample as well, but green has plenty of Trample enablers, so by the time you’re ready to cast you should have something available to help you out.

Speaking of mechanics, there are some new and some old coming with the new set. Convoke being one of the returning mechanics that we just covered, Mentor is the other that we’ve seen before. It’s rules text are as follows: whenever this creature attacks, put a +1/+1 counter on target attacking creature with lesser power. It’s less interesting in Commander, but in Standard I’d think it will work well. The new mechanics introduced with this set are Surveil, Jump-Start, and Undergrowth. Graveyard synergies are getting a boost in all formats here. Surveil is essentially another Scry ability, but instead of top or bottom of your library, it’s top or in the graveyard. Undergrowth has different effects but relies on creatures in your graveyard to solve for X, and as such will work well with Surveil filling your graveyard. Jump-Start has a pretty shitty name, but is essentially Flashback but with the added cost of discarding a card on top of paying the mana. It’s an alright thing we’ve kind of seen before. Split cards are also returning (as pictured above) and these tend to be so-so in most cases. This example is most likely great in Standard but not something I would use in Commander. With split cards you can pay the mana cost for either the left (bottom) side of the card and only get the one effect, or pay both mana costs and cast both spells at the same time. It’s not as good as the Amonkhet splits, but it’s something most players should already be accustomed to.

In a controversial move, Wizards (or their overlords Hasbro more like) have made a product called “Guilds of Ravnica Mythic Edition.” It’s unclear at this point if this is a product that will only be available in this box set that is priced at $249.99 and contains 8 alternate art Planeswalkers (pictured above) and 16 booster packs of the set, or if the “Masterpiece” versions of these Planeswalkers will be available in packs as well. This is also something that is unavailable from your LGS or Wizards themselves, and is only being sold from Hasbro directly. To put things into perspective, packs are typically sold at $4.99 each, so 16 should = ~$79.84 + tax. This is almost $200 more dollars for 8 foils, or $25 each. That’s a bit much. I’m hoping that they’ll end up in packs because I would love a copy of Liliana for my Zombie deck, but I already own Elspeth and Teferi, sold off my Daretti, and don’t really want the others aside from maybe the Nicol Bolas. So yeah, not something I’ll be purchasing, but if the individuals are sold as singles or I’m lucky enough to rip a pack containing one I’d be okay with that.

Another interesting product idea are “Theme Boosters” that are packed with only cards in the colors you want. This first set is concentrating on five of the ten guilds of Ravnica: Dimir, Izzet, Golgari, Boros, and Selesnya. So when you pick up a theme booster, you can pick one of these guilds and only get cards of that guild’s colors, making it easy to boost the power of a particular deck you’ve built. Of course you’ll probably want to mix and match, since you’ll probably build more than one deck around these guilds (or might already have Commander decks in their colors like me) and will want a little bit of everything. I still think it’s cool that they’re doing this because sometimes there are colors that are doing things you just don’t care about and you can skip them altogether. It’s unclear if these are the only way you’ll be able to get them, but they’ve also given us some new lands to pimp things out again.

Instead of full-art lands like Amonkhet, Zendikar or Unstable, this time we’ve gotten some basic lands that have some accentuating artwork in the text box with the corresponding guild’s symbols. I think these are great and will definitely be using these to pimp out some budget decks that fall into the colors (my Dimir Ninjas and Boros Firesong & Sunspeaker decks come to mind). Unstable lands are on the expensive side, and while Amonkhet and Zendikar full-arts are still affordable, these feel good as budget deck additions.

That’s all for this go-round. Full spoilers should be out soon and I’ll be back with thoughts on the rest of the set when that happens.