Recently I’ve been putting a lot of thought into what could be coming down the pipeline in Modern Masters 2017. A lot of players are drooling over the new Masterpieces in Aether Revolt—and I don’t blame them—but now is the time to think critically about the reprints we might see this spring. We’re still three months away from the release date, but the closer we get, the more people start thinking. In order to find the best plan, we need to be the first to make one—that way by the time other people catch up to the news and prices start to move, we’re already prepared. Today I’m going to discuss what I believe has a high chance of appearing in Modern Masters 2017 and why.
Precedent: The Best Prediction
In both psychology and finance, you’ll often hear that the best prediction of future behavior is past behavior. I don’t expect Wizards of the Coast to reinvent the wheel with this Modern Masters set, so there are some ground rules we can establish from older iterations. The first is that they always tell us in advance what time period the cards are drawn from. This Modern Masters set extends to the end of Dragon’s Maze. The most important thing to note is that this includes Innistrad and Return to Ravnica blocks, which were not part of Modern Masters 2015. The emphasis here will be trying to figure out which of the newer cards from these two blocks they have an interest in bringing back.
While it’s not a hard and fast rule, both Modern Masters (MMA) and Modern Masters 2015 (MM2) had exactly 15 mythic rares. These sets differed in total size (229 cards and 249 cards respectively), but the mythic count remained constant. The one monkey wrench here are double-faced cards, which debuted in Innistrad and are thus eligible for reprint in Modern Masters 2017. A large number of double-faced cards would likely necessitate a different printing process and rarity breakdown (as it did in both Innistrad blocks). That said, with the double-faced planeswalker cycle in Magic Origins, Wizards showed its willingness to include this mechanic in small numbers and without messing with the rarity scheme. Barring a heavy double-faced component (and possibly even with one), there’s unlikely to be a change to the 15-mythic count.
The last piece of criteria I will be using to make my predictions is how expensive a given card was by January 2016. There is a big lead time on set design at Wizards of the Coast, and if any financial considerations influenced their choice of reprints they were probably locked in by the beginning of the year. This means that cards that became expensive this year won’t be reprinted on that basis alone (although they might be for other reasons).
Modern Masters had 15 mythics that were broken down as follows:
We have two of each mono-color (10), two gold cards, and 3 artifacts. There are also only two planeswalkers, which I wouldn’t have considered a pattern until Modern Masters 2015 repeated it.
This is not a very impressive array of cards that you could open at mythic in your $7 boosters (remember, the MSRP of Modern Masters wasn’t $10, even if that’s what stores charged). A lot of people were understandably upset when they opened Jugan instead of Tarmogoyf, and while I think that Kokusho was a great inclusion, they didn’t need to include the whole cycle. They learned some lessons from this and two years later released a much more exciting roster of mythics:
Well, would you look at that. Two of each color, four colorless, and an artifact. Four of the major Modern staples from MMA (Vendilion Clique, Dark Confidant, Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker, and Tarmogoyf) return for a second run as they obviously weren’t printed enough the first time around to satiate demand. They learned their lesson this time and included Elesh Norn without the rest of the Praetors to bog down the mythics. Generally, you were pretty happy if you opened a mythic that wasn’t Comet Storm (really guys? Comet Storm, of all things?).
With all of this in mind, I’m going to go out on a limb and predict that we will see a distribution closer to MMA than to MM2. There aren’t a plethora of colorless cards that need to be reprinted, but there are plenty of gold cards to choose from.
There aren’t a ton of white cards that would make for exciting mythic rares in a new Modern Masters set. Both of the white mythics from MMA got swapped out for MM2, and I’d almost expect the same to happen here. The one card that might have enough demand to return is Elesh Norn.
This is my short list of “possible and probable” white mythics. There are not a lot of exciting or expensive mythics from the newest sets added to Modern Masters 2017 and the only existing miss from Modern Masters 2015 was really Linvala, Keeper of Silence. Elesh Norn is pretty reasonable for competitive and casual players and I would not be surprised if it was back again.Auriok Champion is a weird card that, while expensive, is technically a rare. It was only printed once in Fifth Dawn, which is a set that did not contain mythic rares. Wizards has shown a leniency to upgrading rares to mythic if they initially came from a set without mythics (Tarmogoyf, Dark Confidant, Kiki-Jiki, Clique, Bitterblossom, Vedalken Shackles, both Swords, and all of the Dragons were upgraded).
Blue has a better selection of reasonable cards to print at mythic, and this time I think we’re going to see the retirement of Vendilion Clique.
Alright, before you freak out at that Jace, the Mind Sculptor image, let me explain. These are cards I think could get printed at mythic. I’m not guaranteeing anything because, at best, these are just guesses. So before you run to the comments section to tell me that I’ve gone completely mad to put a banned card in this section, let me remind you that Bitterblossom used to be banned and Splinter Twin got banned after it was reprinted. And many Modern players and commentators have argued that Jace would be relatively safe to unban.
There have been just enough Jace reprints that it could finally see the light of day in Modern without becoming $100 overnight. There is one B&R update before Modern Masters 2017 releases (the one for Aether Revolt), and I would be cautiously optimistic that a potential Jace unbanning will be accompanied by a reprint. Currently you can find Eternal Masters copies for about $45, and that’s probably still artificially high considering how many copies are played in most decks.
Aside from that, I think Ancestral Vision is the most likely reprint here. It hasn’t been reprinted in a booster set since the original printing, so upgrading it to mythic is easy. I think Tamiyo and Consecrated Sphinx are probably the next most likely to get reprinted. They are basically on par with Tezzeret the Seeker: popular casual mythics with price tags that don’t make you feel bad when you open them. Jin-Gitaxias, Omniscience, and Bribery also have outside chances of being chosen due to their price tag.
You’ll notice that I’ve included all five Praetors in my list. They’ve gone long enough without a reprint that they’re all relatively expensive, and each one has significant casual appeal. On the subject of Snapcaster Mage, I think it would be a mistake to reprint it at mythic, and it will likely be a rare. It’s not out of the realm of possibility, however, that they deem the rest of these cards not good enough and that it ends up a mythic too.
Clearly they’re just going to put Liliana of the Veil on the sheet twice. Nothing else.
Okay, fine. They probably won’t do that. I think that Dark Confidant will also probably retire this year, replaced by Liliana as the best mythic in the set. Past that, there are a few competitive choices (Griselbrand and Damnation) or a few casual $18-plus mythics that are probably considerations. While nothing really lives up to the hype that Liliana will bring, it’s important to note that Wizards of the Coast continues not to reprint Damnation, so I wouldn’t get your hopes up. All of these cards will feel better to open than a Comet Storm and that’s mostly my goal. There is maybe a bizarro world where our mythics are Liliana and Dark Confidant, but at that point they might as well just call it the Jund Starter Kit.
I hope Wizards of the Coast has as much trouble as me trying to figure out something exciting for this color. The mythics are not impressive.
So I’m going to go out on a limb and say that Comet Storm and Kiki-jiki aren’t returning. The best card to put at mythic would be Through the Breach, but it has a pretty big problem. As of June 2015 it was $10. Now it’s $45 and still climbing. At the time they would have made the decision to reprint, January 2016, Titan Breach was a blip on the map and Breach was a reasonable-sounding $20. The price of Primeval Titan (the most likely card to sneak into play with Through the Breach) has mostly been kept in check by its very forward-thinking printing in Modern Masters 2015. So it’s possible that they similarly noted Through the Breach as a reprint target.
Outside of that, I think Past in Flames would be a fine complement at mythic to a larger flashback theme. Thundermaw Hellkite is just a dude but he’s a few bucks. Urabrask, like the other Praetors, is expensive and old so it could be a consideration too. Koth, finally, is the least likely of these because he already had a Duel Deck printing.
Overall the pool of red mythics just isn’t very deep. It’s even less impressive than the white offering. The one card on everyone’s radar, which is more expensive than most of the cards above, is Goblin Guide. I think it would look pretty bad at mythic though, and it’s probably better served as a rare to help with the supply problem.
With Liliana all but guaranteed to soak up a ton of the value in this set, I can see a world where we don’t get Tarmogoyf again. Two $100 cards in the mythic slot would mean either terrible mythics in the other slots, or a set that’s immeasurably hard to find.
Green is also not a particularly deep color for expensive competitive cards, outside of Tarmogoyf. Vorinclex, like the other four Praetors, is expensive and popular with casual crowds, which makes it reasonable to open. Craterhoof Behemoth is also fairly expensive, and sees play in both casual and competitive decks. Like Goblin Guide, Scapeshift would be better served as a rare but it’s from a set with no mythics so a rarity upgrade is possible. Azusa is kind of in the same boat. She’s not as popular or expensive as she used to be when the Amulet Bloom decks were running rampant—but she’s still popular in Commander and would fill the mythic slot better than another Comet Storm.
Colorless and Gold
This is the area where I think we could see a lot of repeats from past MMA sets. The most expensive colorless, artifact, and gold cards have already been reprinted once in a Modern Masters set. Emrakul, Kozilek, Ulamog, Karn, and Mox Opal are all pretty expensive again. The only new cards in this section that I could really see as a mythic reprint are Ensnaring Bridge, Blightsteel Colossus, and Voice of Resurgence. If they decide to print Liliana and Tarmogoyf, we might see less expensive mythics that still play a role, like Wurmcoil Engine.
The real kicker here is that many of the most expensive artifacts were already reprinted in Modern Masters as rares. Aether Vial, Chalice of the Void, and Engineered Explosives are just a few of the original Modern Masters cards that really need another printing—just not at mythic.
Bringing It Full Circle
What do we do with all of this information? There isn’t a ton to glean, but my main takeaway is that a lot of the plausible mythics in this set just aren’t very good in Modern. Most of the cards people want reprinted are cards that should appear at rare. If we’re lucky, we’ll get a set more like MMA than MM2. Of course, Wizards knows a lot more about the upcoming sets than I do, so we might see some cards that weren’t on anyone’s radar. Like the reprints of Eye of Ugin and Eldrazi Temple right before we went back to Zendikar, we may see reprints that imply a coming need later in the year.
Jim Casale is a well-established Magic player who has plenty of experience grinding the tournament circuit. He qualified for his first Pro Tour in 2016 and likes to talk about hockey. You can find him on Twitter @Phrost_.