Modern Masters 2017 Set Review & Deck Planning

I had pretty high hopes for Modern Masters 2017, but I’m not sure anyone had really expected what we got. This set is filled to the brim with value. There are some decks that definitely benefit a lot more from these reprints and some that got completely ignored. Unfortunately I think that is unavoidable in any set of Magic at this point. This week we’re going to talk about the biggest winners and losers and the best plan to buy cards in the future.

This set has what I would call “phenomenal coverage.” Out of the newest sets added to the Modern Masters rotation, only a handful of competitive and expensive cards weren’t reprinted. Of the top 10 most popular cards in Modern right now, four of them were reprinted in this set. While that might not sound like a great conversion rate, two are too new to be reprinted and one is Lightning Bolt (which arguably doesn’t need a reprint). So four of the seven most popular cards eligible for a reprint got one.

This set is going to be a lot more like Modern Masters 2013 than Modern Masters 2015 because it has a lot more of the value focused at rare and uncommon, and less at mythic. Overall, Modern Masters 2015 had the highest conversion rate of good mythics (making up for the lackluster Kamigawa Dragon legends in Modern Masters 2013). It failed, however, to adequately fill in the rare and uncommon slot with valuable cards to keep box prices more consistent. This will mean that boxes are pretty enticing right now, because you will get fewer boxes where you miss on all of your mythics and end up way behind.

Future Price Tiers

It might not be obvious to everyone, but the current pre-order prices are likely to be unsustainable and the box prices will also fall in the coming weeks. Stores and players are hesitant to hold them because of the limited reprint of Eternal Masters during the holidays of last year. The expected value (EV) of the cards in a box right now is also absurd—that will change quickly, and if you bought a box online you might actually end up losing money if you don’t get it Friday. There are a few price brackets I think the cards will fall into that will likely dictate future prices.

The absolute top-tier Modern staples that will continue to command the highest price tags will likely be Liliana of the Veil and Tarmogoyf. It’s difficult to tell how many copies will be opened, but I am moderately optimistic that these two will settle between $50 and $75. It’s difficult to gauge what the current pre-order prices look like right now because there is an ongoing problem with TCGPlayer and Crystal Commerce (a popular store inventory platform) but it seems like you can pre-order Tarmogoyf for $85-90 and Liliana for $70. You may be able to find some listings this weekend for up to $20 less than this price, so if you’re in a rush to get them, pay attention to prices Friday night and throughout the weekend.

The middle tier of cards I’m expecting will be $30-40 and include Scalding Tarn, Cavern of Souls, Verdant Catacombs, Misty Rainforest, and Snapcaster Mage. I’m expecting Scalding Tarn to be closer to the $40 price tag and the rest closer to $30. Most of these cards have already seen considerable price drops during the preorder period, but they are all cards that most decks play four copies of. These fetches already command a premium due to the number of decks they’re played in, so I’m not optimistic they can fall much further before many players decide they are affordable enough to purchase. Some of these lands may even end up dipping below $30, so if you’re not in a rush it will be good to keep watch on the price changes. The white fetchlands (Arid Mesa and Marsh Flats) are likely to be between $20 and 25 as they are still much rarer than Khans of Tarkir fetches but aren’t very popular outside of a few decks.

The lowest tier of cards that will still be worth money are a lot of cards that are currently far too expensive in their pre-order period. I think most of these cards will end up between $10 and $20. These include Damnation, Blood Moon, Goblin Guide, and Linvala, Keeper of Silence. Ultimately you can’t have too many cards in a set worth more than $10 at rare or lower, because it becomes too profitable to just open the packs. I am currently envisioning a world where the less played cards (like Damnation and Linvala) are still more expensive than they should be because of their price memory. But eventually you will be able to buy a playset of Goblin Guide for probably $40-50. This could be wrong (as any prediction is just that, an educated guess), but I believe the rest of the set will be sub-$5 or bulk.

Notable cards in this final category that I think will hold values above $2 are Path to Exile, Inquisition of Kozilek, Voice of Resurgence, Griselbrand, Craterhoof Behemoth, Death’s Shadow, and Cyclonic Rift. There are other cards pre-ordering for more than that but the sheer supply will continue to crash the prices of everything except the most sought-after staples. If you’re surprised by my pick for Cyclonic Rift, it’s because it’s a Commander card that is almost impervious to reprint dips. If you’ve followed the price tag of the recently reprinted Chromatic Lantern, you can see how many copies Commander players can gobble up before prices start to rise. Due to the fact that Cyclonic Rift is literally the first card in every blue deck after Sol Ring, it continues to drive demand.

As far as other cards, Abrupt Decay doesn’t see enough play to keep it out of bulk rare status. It’s in a lot of decks as 1-2 copies but not consistently 4 copies which would drive demand. Gifts Ungiven is a a pretty niche card and really only played in one archetype (I didn’t even think it would get reprinted). Grafdigger’s Cage has fallen out of favor, due to the nerfing of Dredge and more people realizing that Surgical Extraction and Ravenous Trap are psuedo-colorless. Venser, Shaper Savant doesn’t really get played in Modern or Legacy enough to warrant its price tag. Basilisk Collar was primarily a casual card until it saw some adoption in the colorless Eldrazi Tron decks. This set doesn’t bring any relief to a particularly expensive deck so I’m not expecting a ton of people to need them for their $600-700 deck that got no reprints. When the dust settles, the rest of the set will probably be close to $1 or less.

Biggest Winners

Next let’s look at the archetypes that gained the most from reprints. Several decks in Modern have suddenly become a lot cheaper. Now is the time to jump on these if you were considering picking one up.

  • BGx
    Well, if you wanted to play a black-green deck with Tarmogoyf and Liliana, then I have great news for you! There’s basically a starter kit available in Modern Masters 2017 for those players. You can build most of the Death’s Shadow deck, Jund, and Abzan with cards exclusively from Modern Masters 2017. The biggest missing cards are mostly lands, or cards that were reprinted in previous Modern Masters sets. If you’re thinking about putting together any deck that plays the two set flagship cards I would recommend waiting to pre-order them and instead using your money to fill out the rest of the deck.

Noble Hierarch is definitely the first card I would target for Abzan. It hasn’t had quite the same reaction as some cards that have already spiked and is probably due for a price correction. Jund definitely gets the most from the set since they decided to reprint pretty much everything except Fulminator Mage and Dark Confidant (both of which were in the last Modern Masters set). Blackcleave Cliffs and Raging Ravine are both integral parts of the mana base that also haven’t been reprinted and are worth picking up early.

Death’s Shadow is kind of the perfect storm of recent popularity coupled with namesake reprints. The threats in the deck (Tarmogoyf, Death’s Shadow, Lingering Souls, and Ranger of Eos) have been reprinted but some really awkward commons and uncommons continue to drive up the price of the deck. Mishra’s Bauble is by far the biggest offender here, and has already seen a steep increase as it was confirmed not to be in the set. I’m not sure when or where Mishra’s Bauble can be reprinted, but there nothing can really replace its ability to get you delirium coupled with its ability to reduce your deck size. The lack of bauble feels a lot to me like the snub of Serum Visions from Modern Masters 2015. It is an oversight that will cost Wizards of the Coast as players will probably complain about it a lot until they can find a place to print it in a year.

  • Burn
    Burn is another deck that has had a lot of help arrive in this set. Most of the cards in the deck weren’t actually very expensive outside of Goblin Guide and Arid Mesa, so it’s likely to shave a large percentage of the deck’s cost off the top. Unfortunately, a lot of players have already realized the next most important choke point for Burn is Eidolon of the Great Revel. This card has seen large increases in the past week as players prepare for their new Goblin Guides. Even with the price increase in Eidolon, the deck is likely to be about $100 to $150 cheaper than it was before the reprints. The next most important cards for Burn that didn’t get reprinted are the middle-of-the-road commons and uncommons. Lightning Bolt, Lightning Helix, Lava Spike, Rift Bolt, and Boros Charm are various prices but all more than $2 each at the current time. I could see a world where they continue to dodge reprints and continue to creep up in price, so I would recommend getting those sooner than later.
  • Gifts Storm
    The last and probably most ironic deck to get a lot of help from Modern Masters 2017 is the Storm deck I wrote about last week. Almost every rare in the maindeck that could have been reprinted was. The most expensive cards in the deck by far (Scalding Tarn and Blood Moon) were reprinted. At this point this deck could probably end up being the cheapest competitive deck in Modern in the next month. On the other hand, there are still not a ton of Manamorphose available for people to play with, so I wouldn’t dawdle around and wait to get those. I am also still a firm believer we will see shockland movement as people can finally afford to get all of the fetches for the decks that they want to build. Steam Vents is irreplaceable and integral to the deck. If you’re looking for a budget-friendly and powerful deck in Modern, I’m hard-pressed to recommend anything other than Gifts Storm.

Biggest Losers

Man, this set is rough for any deck that plays predominantly colorless cards. I made mention in my mythic prediction article that, without another round of colorless reprints, we could have some trouble. Karn Liberated has recently been adopted into the top end of the Eldrazi Tron decks and the price graph for him now isn’t pretty.

(Click to expand.)

This type of violent spiking typically doesn’t come from malicious actors. A lot of players were waiting to see if Wizards would sneak Karn into another reprint set and rushed to grab them when they didn’t. It’s unfortunate, but I also don’t think it’s done happening. There are a distinct lack of powerful colorless cards in MM2017, all of which could see a spike in the near future. Mox Opal, Crucible of Worlds, Chalice of the Void, and Engineered Explosives are all very expensive but so was Karn. It’s not out of the realm of possibility that we see them all gain 25-30% of their value over a week. Affinity also didn’t get any love from this set. Arcbound Ravager, Mox Opal, and Inkmoth Nexus continue to comprise more than half the cost of the entire deck. I expect any good Affinity finishes in the near future to really ratchet up the problem.

On a related note, Inkmoth Nexus also continues to be a thorn in the side of hopeful Infect players. No Noble Hierarch reprint also adds more salt to the wound, which can’t be fixed by bringing Might of Old Krosa from a $10 uncommon to $1-2. While Infect is certainly a lot less popular after the banning of Gitaxian Probe, it isn’t being helped by half of the deck’s cost being tied up in Inkmoth Nexus and Noble Hierarch. I sense future problems will originate from lack of Pendelhaven and Spellskite reprints, but hopefully Wizards of the Coast will find somewhere to put Phyrexian mana again.

Final Thoughts

When was the last time you saw a decklist for Jund that cost less than $2,000? It’s going to be a great time to buy Modern cards—hopefully you’ve saved all of your money over the past few months to splurge here. Much like the last Modern Masters release, there will be a lot of cards on release weekend that you may not find cheaper for a few years. What cards are you most excited to be able to pick up?

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_.

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