Unlocking the Vault #63: The Path to Vintage, Part 3— Vintage from Scratch

In Parts 1 & 2 of this series exploring how Legacy players can take advantage of the impending release of Vintage Masters. For this final article in the series, I’m going to discuss the steps that players who have little to no Vintage cards on MTGO can start today to gear up for online Vintage.

I could probably write 3 separate articles on this subject alone, but there isn’t really enough time to implement any of the suggestions that I am about to make. As such, I’ll focus on which cards I believe will be reprinted in Vintage Masters, and if there are any cards that I think are still worth picking up at today’s prices even if they are going to be reprinted.

It’s probably a logical place to start by refreshing ourselves on the original announcement of Vintage Masters, as well as the more recent announcement of Conspiracy, which will also have an impact on Vintage Masters. Even as I write this, some 6 weeks prior to the release of Vintage Masters, there is still a lot of information about the set that we do not know. We don’t know how often a Power 9 card will be found in a single pack of Vintage Masters. We also don’t know the exact size of the set and rarity distribution, though it’s claimed to be roughly the same size as Modern Masters. There is also still some question as to whether cards printed after 8th Edition will be included in the set.

What is Vintage Masters going to look like?

Here are some of the key points that we do know about Vintage Masters:

  • Each pack will contain the same assortment of cards found in Modern Masters (i.e. 10 commons, 3 uncommons, 1 rare or mythic, and 1 premium foil card).
  • 1 Power card will be inserted into the foil slot of a pack, including the chance to find a foil Power 9 card.
  • Set is being designed to be highly playable in a Limited environment, similar to Modern Masters.
  • There will be some cards from the paper-only set Conspiracy (ironically being released within a couple days of each other).

 

The last point is particularly interesting for several reasons. First, we know that the Conspiracy cards will be in the modern card frame. The announcement of Vintage Masters also displayed the Power 9 in the modern card frame. These two points lead me to believe that Vintage Masters will utilize the modern card frame. Players like myself who prefer to use older cards and want their older cards to look old, will want to take note of this fact. Original prints of staples such as Mishra’s Workshop and Mana Drain are likely to hold their value when compared to a possible reprint in Vintage Masters. They may even increase in value, especially foil versions, as the demand for tournament-playable Vintage cards increases.

The second point that we can speculate about is whether the fact that Wizards is willing to put brand new cards from Conspiracy in Vintage Masters means that Wizards is also not holding any restrictions about a cut-off date for cards to be included in the set. Initially, the general consensus from the community was that Wizards would not have any overlap of Modern Masters and Vintage Masters, but the fact that Conspiracy cards are in the set leaves the door open that we might see reprints of Modern-legal cards in Vintage Masters, perhaps things like Jace, the Mind Sculptor, Stoneforge Mystic, Skullclamp, and Mental Misstep, which are all banned in Modern but also very prominent in Vintage. It’s highly unlikely that Wizards would reprint banned cards in future Modern Masters products, so this might be the best opportunity to reprint these cards online lest they become a problem in price (e.g., Jace).

Beyond that, however, we also get new cards from Conspiracy, and one particularly spicy one that is Vintage-playable has already been revealed:

I think we can all safely conclude that Dack will be in Vintage Masters. Dack has 2 relevant abilities in Vintage and is aggressively costed at 3 mana. There is obvious synergy with Goblin Welder and is great at controlling Tinker and Time Vault-Voltaic Key. It’s a blue and red card, so it synergizes with many cards that share those colors, and while the ultimate ability isn’t that relevant, there are already a couple cards regularly found in Vintage decks which work well within those colors: Fire // Ice and Pyroblast. This isn’t meant to be a full review of the possibilities that Dack brings to Vintage, but it’s clear that we can expect to see a couple other cards like this similar to what we’ve seen from other Eternal-only sets such as the Commander products. I can’t wait to see what other cards might be Vintage-playable in Conspiracy!

Making some predictions…

With the information at hand, we can start to make some assumptions about how Vintage Masters will look. For the sake of argument, we’ll imagine that Vintage Masters has the same number (plus 9) of cards as was found in Modern Masters. This means we can expect 101 commons, 60 uncommons, 53 rares, and 15 mythic rares. Let’s focus on the rares and mythics for this exercise, as containing them makes this topic the most manageable and includes the most expensive and likely key cards for Vintage.

The first thing that needs to be discussed is that there are more than 68 rare/mythic cards that are required for Vintage. When you simply take a look at the non-Modern legal dual lands and OLS fetch lands, that right there is 15 cards (I’m ignoring the ZEN fetch lands, as I believe those will be reprinted in an upcoming Standard-legal set, or at worst, in Modern Masters 2). In order to build a Vintage product that contains the most possible Vintage-playable cards, they will not be able to print all 15 in this set.

As you may have noticed, WotC is offering all the dual lands as MOCS promos. We have already received Underground Sea, Plateau, Scrubland, Savannah, and a good portion of the Tropical Islands that are going to be released (more will be released whenever the MOCS are finally rescheduled) with Bayou on the way. The rest of the dual lands will likely be released over the next few months.

Why would WotC do this? Surely, they can’t be simply being nice to us right? This is the same company that gave us Mind’s Eye, Cryptborn Horror, and Lotus Cobra in the months leading up to and immediately surrounding Savannah, the first dual land offered as a promo. Those are cards that nobody was really clamoring for. No, I posit that the release of dual lands as promos were a calculated effort that started at the same time they began building Vintage Masters. I believe that WotC understood that it would be impossible to place all 15 of the key lands of Vintage mana bases in a set with only 53 rares (for reference, Masters Edition IV, which contained all 10 dual lands, had 105 rares in it, is nearly double Vintage Masters).

It is my opinion that we should not expect dual lands in Vintage Masters, making them ideal targets for players interested in playing Vintage on MTGO. In fact, I am so positive that dual lands won’t be in Vintage Masters, that I would advise potential Vintage players to buy them if they only had enough money to buy a handful of cards right away. If you don’t pick them up now, you’ll be kicking yourself once the full set is spoiled and none of the dual lands are in Vintage Masters; the dual lands will start to recover, and might even exceed their pre-promo prices. I also believe speculators have already started buying up dual lands. Even if you are not convinced, at least pick up the dual lands that have already been reprinted as promos.

With that, should we expect that the Onslaught fetch lands will be reprinted? I’m not 100% sold on that idea. There is still a possibility that WotC desires all 10 Fetch Lands to be Modern legal. If that is what they want, then the Zendikar Fetch Lands won’t be reprinted in an upcoming Core Set, the Onslaught Fetch Lands will be instead. There really isn’t any hints that we have to make an educated guess, so I would advocate staying away from the Fetch Lands altogether until after Vintage Masters is spoiled. If I had a gun to my head, I would put my bet on the Onslaught fetch lands being in Vintage Masters, so let’s run with assumption for the purposes of the rest of this article.

Beyond the mana base

With 5 of the 68 rare/mythic cards predicted, that leaves us with 63 cards to consider to in Vintage Masters. Let’s next take a look at some of the “pillars” of Vintage: Mana Drain, Mishra’s Workshop, Bazaar of Baghdad, and Null Rod. Without those 4 cards, it’s quite difficult to build competitive Vintage decks. In the case of Workshop and Bazaar, it’s impossible to build their respective decks without their engine cards. I fully expect all 4 to be included in Vintage Masters, so let’s take a look at the merits of each of the 4:

Drain is not found in every blue deck in Vintage, but is a major component in a vast majority of such decks. I can see that this card will be a mythic rare for not only its nostalgia, but also because it’s a powerful limited card in the right situation. If there are worthwhile cards to ramp into, unconditional countermagic that can generate significant mana can be broken in limited. At mythic rarity, it’ll likely maintain its current value, but there is an alternative art in the MTGO Cube, so the basis to buy it today depends on your feelings toward Vintage Masters using alternative art cards in the modern card frame or the original art in the original frame.

Workshop has been steadily climbing for the last year or so and can be found in excess of 30 tickets. I believe that Workshop will be a mythic rare due to its obscene power level in ramping out powerful artifacts. Similar to Drain, there is an alternate art version that appears in the MTGO Cube, so I fully expect that they will use the new art in Vintage Masters. At the mythic rarity, it should hold its price just like Drain, and depends on your feelings towards the new art/frame.

Bazaar is an interesting case study. As the most powerful card in the Dredge deck, it is required in order to be competitive. In addition, it is by far the most expensive card in Dredge decks, which are largely composed of dirt cheap commons and uncommons as well as rares that can be found for just a few tickets or less. Although Dredge decks overall are the cheapest Vintage decks to currently build, I believe grinders will flock to the deck for reasons beyond just its cheap price. Obviously, the deck is powerful as it has won Vintage tournaments at the highest stages, which means grinders can rely on the deck performing well. Another important factor is that the deck can lead to very fast matches. Dredge is as fast as combo decks in that regard and for grinders that double (or triple) queue, this is very important. If Vintage fires tournaments regularly, watch out for the prevalence of Dredge decks (especially early on where Power will be scarce in the first few days after Vintage Masters is released) and grinders piloting them. I’ve already faced 4 Dredge opponents in Round 1 of each of the last 4 Classic DEs that I’ve participated in. People are already gearing up for Vintage by practicing with Dredge in Classic!

With regard to the pricing of Bazaar, I actually think it could stand to increase in price if it is printed at mythic. I have a hard time envisioning a scenario where WotC wants a Dredge deck in a limited environment, even with the low odds of hitting a Bazaar at rare. Doing so would require WotC to load up on anti-graveyard cards in Vintage Masters, and would water down the card pool. Without a Dredge archetype in limited, placing Bazaar at mythic would help since it would likely have no value whatsoever in limited without support dredge cards. Assuming that Bazaar is not reprinted in Vintage Masters, then watch out for the existing versions to start flying off bot inventories as grinders and people looking to get into Vintage on the cheap start buying up all the available Bazaars.

Finally, the final pillar to discuss is Null Rod. Rod has traditionally been associated with cheap “Fish” decks in Vintage. Before the significant rise in prices for Dual Lands and Forces in paper with the 2010-2011 Legacy price spikes, Fish decks were quite affordable (for Vintage purposes) since they didn’t use Power. The backbone of these decks were shutting off fully Powered Vintage decks through the use of Rod. The recent printing of Stony Silence has limited the need of Rod in general, but there are certainly Fish decks that don’t play white cards, such as BUG Delver decks. These decks could certainly put a Null Rod to good use, though Rod has been declining in popularity in Vintage over the last couple of years.

Having said that, it is still a pillar of Vintage and would be an excellent candidate for reprinting in Vintage Masters. Unlike Workshop, Bazaar, and Drain, a reprinting of Null Rod would likely crater the current price. Right now, Rod is artificially inflated due to the scarcity of Weatherlight cards on MTGO. I could easily see this reprinted at rare due to its low power level (it doesn’t do anything after all).

The curious cases of Force of Will, Wasteland, and Lion’s Eye Diamond

People seem to have differing opinions on whether Force will be reprinted in Vintage Masters or not. On the one hand, people believe that it needs to be reprinted in order to continue to drop its value and ensure that Force is not a bottleneck to Vintage. On the other hand, there is the actual evidence in front of us: Force has now been reprinted twice in the last 16 months as a promo. It also comes on the heal of the Lion’s Eye Diamond promo, which is another card that musters differing opinions on being reprinted in Vintage Masters. Similar to the dual lands, I believe neither will be in Vintage Masters as a result of their promos. If you are interested in either Force or LED, I suggest you pick them up now. Even if Force is in Vintage Masters, the price should have little change unless it is printed at rare, which is something I have a hard time believing will happen, even if it would significantly help with the supply/demand of the card.

As for LED’s merit in being reprinted in Vintage Masters, it is restricted in Vintage and found in only 1 deck with any regularity: Storm. LED has shown up in decks outside of Storm like Doomsday and Belcher, but overall, it is seldom used in Vintage. Seeing that the demand for the card will largely remain unchanged, it makes much more sense to reprint it as a promo instead of putting it into a draftable set. Add in the fact that LED is easily one of the worst limited cards ever printed, it makes sense to leave it out of Vintage Masters.

Wasteland is by far the most expensive uncommon on MTGO, and is an integral part of a large percentage of Vintage decks. If it is to be reprinted in Vintage Masters, then it’ll probably be found at mythic rare, or at worst, rare, but certainly not uncommon. There was new art commissioned for Wasteland for the Legacy championships last year, so I would believe that new art will be found on the next printing of Wasteland. Having said that, I don’t believe that next printing will be in Vintage Masters. Instead, I believe that the new art will be used as a promo in an upcoming MOCS, perhaps once all the dual lands are finished. I can’t advocate anyone picking up Wasteland right now, on the off chance that it is miraculously reprinted in Vintage Masters at uncommon. I do advise people to be on the lookout during spoiler season. If it is not found in Vintage Masters, then it could see a bump in value until my predicted promo version is announced.

Controlling the EV

The MSRP of Vintage Masters will be $7. We have to take into consideration that the expected value (EV) of each pack will likely not exceed that MSRP. How does this affect the prediction of what cards will be reprinted in Vintage Masters? Well, we have to understand that not every single Vintage-worthy card currently worth over 7 tickets will be found in Vintage Masters. In addition, even if they wanted to reprint all those cards, the limited environment would probably be miserable. Regardless, here is a list of all the 50 pre-8th Edition rare cards that are currently over 7 tickets in value.

Stifle
Entomb
Ichorid
Burning Wish
Pernicious Deed
Vindicate
Unmask
Food Chain
Misdirection
Rishadan Port
Tangle Wire
Argothian Enchantress
Exploration
Time Spiral
Tolarian Academy
Gaea’s Cradle
Show and Tell
Sneak Attack
Defense Grid
Grim Monolith
Academy Rector
Metalworker
Grindstone
Humility
Intuition
Ensnaring Bridge
Mox Diamond
Oath of Druids
City of Traitors
Lion’s Eye Diamond
Undiscovered Paradise
Natural Order
Vampiric Tutor
Doomsday
Null Rod
Helm of Obedience
Imperial Seal
Mana Crypt
Grim Tutor
Land Tax
The Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale
Bazaar of Baghdad
Mana Drain
Candelabra of Tawnos
Time Vault
Library of Alexandria
Mana Vault
Sinkhole
Demonic Tutor
Mishra’s Workshop

The 7-ticket cut-off leaves out quite a few cards in the 3-6 ticket range. This list would include Sphere of Resistance, Smokestack, and Goblin Welder. It would be impractical to have all 50 of these cards in Vintage Masters. You’ll also probably notice that this list is dominated by mostly Legacy cards. In fact, if you look at just the cards commonly found in Vintage, the list shrinks considerably and starts to look like this:

Ichorid
Burning Wish
Unmask
Misdirection
Rishadan Port
Tangle Wire
Tolarian Academy
Gaea’s Cradle
Show and Tell
Defense Grid
Grim Monolith
Academy Rector
Metalworker
Grindstone
Intuition
Ensnaring Bridge
Oath of Druids
City of Traitors
Lion’s Eye Diamond
Undiscovered Paradise
Vampiric Tutor
Doomsday
Null Rod
Helm of Obedience
Imperial Seal
Mana Crypt
Bazaar of Baghdad
Mana Drain
Time Vault
Library of Alexandria
Mana Vault
Demonic Tutor
Mishra’s Workshop

These 33 cards would represent the most necessary cards to reprint if the goal is to only make Vintage more accessible and ignore any effects it might have on Legacy. There is merit to the notion that Vintage and Legacy event participation might grow for both formats with the release of Vintage Masters as more people embrace the idea of eternal formats on MTGO. In this case, the prices of Legacy cards that don’t appear in Vintage Masters may also start to increase as a possible influx of Vintage players also dabble in Legacy.

This list above can be further shortened to the key cards that would be necessary for Vintage and would look something like this:

Ichorid
Burning Wish
Misdirection
Rishadan Port
Tangle Wire
Tolarian Academy
Gaea’s Cradle
Grim Monolith
Metalworker
Oath of Druids
City of Traitors
Lion’s Eye Diamond
Undiscovered Paradise
Vampiric Tutor
Null Rod
Helm of Obedience
Imperial Seal
Mana Crypt
Bazaar of Baghdad
Mana Drain
Time Vault
Library of Alexandria
Mana Vault
Demonic Tutor
Mishra’s Workshop

If only the 25 cards above are reprinted in Vintage Masters, then Vintage should be in good shape. I don’t expect all of these cards to be reprinted, but a good percentage should be. The problem with reprinting all of these is that creatures form the backbone of limited formats, and there are exactly 2 creatures on that list. As such, several won’t be in Vintage Masters as they’ll hit the cutting room floor in favor of creatures (41 of the 53 rares in Modern Masters were creatures). I would avoid any of the cards on this list, especially Rishadan Port, which probably won’t go much higher than it already is if it isn’t reprinted, but would plummet if it is.

Beyond the pre-8th Edition cards, there is one card that is found in many blue decks, including Storm, to bounce artifacts as a way to build storm count or to buy a turn or two against Workshop decks: Hurkyl’s Recall. It was only released in 10th Edition and is quite pricy due to its use in fighting off Affinity in Modern. For both Vintage and Modern, this card needs to be reprinted, and hopefully in the original art.

tl;dr

We still don’t know much about Vintage Masters right now, but what we do know can help us make some educated guesses on what someone just starting to get into Vintage-online should buy today. The fact that Conspiracy cards will be inserted into Vintage Masters is a big clue that the set will use the modern card frame and that new cards printed after 8th Edition could also find their way into the set.

Additionally, the recent dual land, Force, and LED promos probably indicate that they won’t be in Vintage Masters. My recommendation in the first place to start building a collection would be to aggressively target these 12 cards. Once spoilers start coming out in mid-late May, pay attention to the cards that don’t get spoiled, especially the card numbers. Sometimes it’s possible to figure out if a card won’t be in the set if there is no gap in numbers where the named card should fit alphabetically.

There is another strategy: simply buy everything that you can now and hope that things even out when some cards go up and some cards go down in value. In the long haul, all the cards should hold their value pretty well so long as Vintage fires events.

enderfall
Clan Magic Eternal
Follow me on Twitter @enderfall

 
  1. Good article, but speaking for myself, I hope you’re wrong.

    Given the strict bottleneck FoW & Wasteland place on Classic/Vintage in terms of price, if they don’t drop, I have very, very little interest in playing – as others have said, may as well play in paper.

  2. Thanks for your comment, Jest! I hear this sentiment quite a bit (re: FoW and Wasteland prices), and while I certainly understand it to some degree, it confuses me just as equally, so please don’t misunderstand me as I try to rationalize this polarizing discussion. Dangerlinto wrote an excellent summary (http://puremtgo.com/articles/price-vintage-part-2) last Fall regarding the price differences between paper and digital for the most common Vintage decks. In every single case, online decks were substantially cheaper than their paper counterparts even when taking the Power 9 out of the equation. It must also be said that last Fall prices for both Fow and Wasteland were much higher than they are today thanks to the TSE flashback drafts and the second release of FoW promo’s. This overall digital vs. paper price discrepancy is mainly due to the fact that the Dual Lands and Fetch Lands are about 1/4th the price as their paper counterparts, but there are many other cards that are much cheaper as well such as Drain, Snapcaster Mage, Jace, and even Tarmogoyf.

    Perhaps the greater question is what most people believe is a fair price to pay to play Vintage online? To me, the heart of the matter is the perception of what is worth the price of digital. In today’s ever shifting economic landscape, people are more and more willing to buy digital objects such as movies, songs, and even video games. While all of those things are significantly cheaper than buying a digital trading card deck (especially for Vintage and to a slightly lesser extent, Legacy), none of those digital objects can be transferred and recouped for their initial investment, or sold at a profit. Many of the people that have been playing Classic/Legacy for years have gained considerable returns on their investments and if Vintage and Legacy continue to fire regularly, continued growth is certainly not out of the question, especially for Power cards.

    At what price point would significantly more people be interested in buying an expensive digital product to play/practice any time of the day and (presumably) enter tournaments at their leisure than those that would prefer to pay several times more for a paper product that is nearly impossible to play other than in isolated areas around the world a few weekends out of the entire year? Obviously there are other factors involved such as socializing with other players, etc., but if that is anyone’s main goal, then they probably should have bought paper years ago.

    One final thought I have on the matter is the price difference in paper vs. digital for Modern. Modern online is the second most popular constructed format by a wide margin, and might even be close to on par with Standard on MTGO, in terms of event participation. Modern is far from cheap online, though the mana base is similar to Vintage/Legacy in that it is cheaper than in paper. People don’t seem to have a problem paying $70 for Liliana which goes in just a couple Modern decks (it can be used in Legacy, as can the next card), or Tarmogoyf for $80+, but paying $70-90 for FoW and/or Wasteland which go in nearly every single deck is any different?

  3. To be clear: I want Vintage to succeed and if that means prices have to be significantly lower, then I certainly hope that VM achieves that goal. I just think it’s not likely that the EV of cracking a VM pack will be high enough to justify putting all the necessary Vintage cards in VM, or even a vast majority of them. There are going to have to be concessions, and in packs that might contain Power, I just don’t see WotC throwing in even more “money” into each pack by placing FoW and Wasteland in with all of the other cards which should be reprinted. There are going to be plenty of money commons/uncommons that should be printed in VM as well, such as Gush, Daze, Brainstorm, Swords to Plowshares, etc.

    Another factor which I didn’t really get into here is that most of the cards that people want to see in VM are spells and/or lands, whereas MMA was mostly creatures with some complimentary spells and enough lands to make the limited mana bases reasonable. The creatures are going to have to come from somewhere, and likely at the expense of spells like Show and Tell/Intuition/Undiscovered Paradise/Imperial Seal. We must also think of the color balance. Blue is the most played color in Vintage, but we can’t have the set being 50% blue and 50% everything else as limited would probably be awful. It’ll be difficult to get all of the necessary blue cards in VM, so some cards from that powerful list are not going to make it.

  4. Thank you, thank you, thank you. Excellent article, loved it. I’ve been prepping for vintage for a bit, but needed a bit better angle on it, thanks again.

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