Remember when I said that Vintage Masters would lack many staple cards because the numbers couldn’t support that many cards in a small ~250 card set that would also be fun to draft? Turns out I was wrong! Vintage Masters has been revealed, and oh boy, is it chock full of staples. Though a little bit of an exaggeration, it looks more like Powered Cube where you get to keep the cards than it does resemble anything like Modern Masters, the set it was designed to emulate.
To be fair, my analysis wasn’t wrong in the sense that it was flawed. Instead, my predictions were based upon old information that wasn’t updated publicly. Evidently, Vintage Masters was actually a ~250 card set at the time they announced that it was going to be released this year. At some point between that announcement and last week, WotC’s development team thought the set would be better off with a larger card pool, though they never actually revealed what led them to that conclusion.
Considering the sheer quality of cards that are in Vintage Masters, it’s fair to assume that they felt the format would have a better chance at surviving if nearly every single staple card were in the set. Yes, there are some glaring omissions which I’ll get to later, but by and large, someone can start from scratch and only draft Vintage Masters to have a really good Vintage collection. Not a complete collection, but likely a much better collection than if the set only had ~250 cards in it.
Along with the contents of the set, there was also a lot of information revealed which we had been eagerly awaiting. We now know that:
- The set will use the modern card frame, perhaps maintaining as much of the value as possible for players who bought old-frame cards long ago.
- Only cards that are not Modern-legal were eligible for the set; this includes cards on the Modern banned list and cards from special sets like Commander, and as we’ve known for a while, Conspiracy.
- A single piece of Power is inserted in ~1:53 packs; foil Power is at an unknown rate.
- The Power rarity is referred to as “Special”.
- Vintage Masters will be on sale until the fall 2014 set, Khans of Tarkir, is released, though it’s not 100% certain that drafts will be available that long, though it is highly likely.
- For an undetermined set of time, Legacy and Vintage DEs will pay out with packs of Vintage Masters.
What is in the set?
Much to many people’s surprise, especially my own, Force of Will, Lion’s Eye Diamond, and the duals are actually in the set. Even more surprising, Force and the duals were rare instead of mythic! I thought for sure that these recent promos had no chance of being in Vintage Masters and that the mere existence of the promos meant that they purposefully used them as a means to get more of those cards into the system since they weren’t in the set. Boy, was I wrong!
Within minutes, you could see the impact of these reprints on the classifieds. Prices for these cards crashed hard and fast. Force is at its lowest point since I can remember. LED is well below the lowest price in the last 4 years. Duals are near their low mark shortly after Master’s Edition IV was released.
Beyond those key cards, Vintage Masters is chock full of nearly every Vintage staple (some past, most present). Consider this list:
Oath of Druids
Jace, the Mind Scuptor
Survival of the Fittest
Edric, Spymaster of Trest
Library of Alexandria
Bazaar of Baghdad
Fact or Fiction
Tendrils of Agony
City in a Bottle
Karn, Silver Golem
Sphere of Resistance
These aren’t just a collection of the most expensive cards (some are very cheap); they are essential cards for anyone looking to start a Vintage collection! There are many other support cards in common/uncommon which I failed to name (such as Swords to Plowshares, Brainstorm, and Dark Ritual), which offer new players the ability to build a near complete collection of Vintage from scratch. Which brings me to my next point…
Will there ever be a better time to get into Vintage online?
The answer to that question is likely an emphatic “NO”. In my wildest dreams, I had hoped we would get reprints of 1/3 of the cards listed above. By increasing the set size by ~75 cards, development was able to put together one of the most amazing collections of cards that we will ever see. Think about it: if this set didn’t have Power, it would still be the most amazing set ever created. This is what we all wished Master’s Edition IV would be.
It is possible that at some point down the road, we’ll get Vintage Masters II, which will have Power reprinted again, but remember, it’s been 3 and 1/2 years since Masters Edition IV came out, and I would imagine it’ll be at least two years before we get anything like this, if ever.
With that in mind, and noting the habit of eternal cards to increase in price over time after they are no longer in print, the next few months may quite possibly represent the lowest buy-in cost for Vintage ever again. I can’t emphasize that point enough. If you are at all on the fence, please realize this could be the last, best chance you’ll get to acquire a Vintage collection at its lowest price. If that doesn’t catch your fancy, then think of the next few months as WotC’s way of putting Vintage on clearance sale. Everyone loves a bargain, right? Getting in now will be the best bargain you may ever find on eternal cards on MTGO, and maybe the best bargain for eternal cards per se.
One final point in favor of getting into Vintage online right now: Paper Vintage cards are skyrocketing in value right now, especially Power. Speculators that made a fortune on modern cards have been looking to liquidate those positions in Modern and move into something safer. These speculators have turned their attention to the Reserved List which has spiked many Legacy and Vintage cards. The result? Paper is getting even more expensive while MTGO prices are dropping.
I don’t have hundreds of tickets to spare, what can I do?
You don’t need to dump 800-1200 tickets into Vintage all at once in order to play the format. If you are a decent drafter, you can probably have some success by grinding away drafts to help build your collection. At a minimum, you have a little less than a 1/3 chance of getting a dual land in each draft. Many of the mythics in the set are restricted, so you only need one in order to build a deck. If you can win 2 out of every 3 matches, you should come out enough ahead to “go infinite”, or at least break even. The EV in this set is remarkably high, but it will be interesting to see if this will hold up over time if the set is to be heavily drafted for 3 and 1/2 months.
If drafting isn’t your thing, don’t fret, you can still get into Vintage though your approach must be different. For the time being, WotC has announced that Vintage and Legacy DEs will pay out in Vintage Masters packs instead of the normal Theros Block we’ve been accustomed to. It’s difficult to say if there is a deck within your budget especially since a full set of Power will probably cost a couple hundred tickets alone (by my estimation, which I will also get to later), but options are there even for the most modest budget.
While I hate to admit this (because I know early Vintage DEs will be chock full of the deck), Dredge is going to be dirt cheap (by eternal standards) to play. The two most expensive cards in the deck are being reprinted in Vintage Masters which will help keep the cost of the deck reasonable. The rest of the deck consists of commons/uncommons/rares from sets released in the last 7 years. Here is what a typical Dredge deck looks like, though there are minor variations:
Vintage Cagebreaker Dredge by Gabriel Rabin
This particular Dredge deck is built to beat Grafdigger’s Cage, which is a popular card decks have used to fight Dredge and other decks that use the graveyard or cheat creatures into play from the library. There are many other ways to build a Dredge deck, but this deck won a 41-person tournament in Australia recently.
I wrote a primer (Part 1 and Part 2) a couple years ago on Dredge, and while it’s a little dated and I am certainly not the best Dredge player by any stretch of the imagination, it is a good introduction for players to get an idea of how the deck works. Here is a more recent primer that I suggest reading as well, though the second part of the primer has yet to be posted as of authoring this article.
The deck listed above can be acquired for roughly 250 tickets and would immediately be competitive in Vintage. It’s not a small sum by any means, but it will cost less than Power alone. With some practice (and this deck requires a lot of it to fully understand the intricacies of how/when/what to dredge) you can begin to grind out Vintage DEs and hopefully some Vintage Masters packs to open to build your collection.
If playing a Dredge deck isn’t your cup of tea, another cheap option to grind out some Vintage Masters packs could be a Hatebears/Maverick style deck. These decks will typically use Power, but only Black Lotus and any on color Moxen. Building a budget version without those cards is possible and could be supplemented with a Chrome Mox or even just a Lotus Petal. Here are two options I found that recently put up Top 8 results:
Vintage Mono-White Hate Bears by Dan Glantz
Vintage Junk Hatebears by Tom Dixon
The Mono-White Hatebears deck is much cheaper of the two, but both decks don’t rely on many cards that exceed 10 tix (aside from the lands). The Mono-White deck clocks in at about 575 tickets right now, but 440 of them are Wastelands.
Dark Confidant in the Junk Hatebears deck is the most expensive nonland card in either deck, discounting the Power cards. Both black tutors are in the set and are currently expensive, but will be reprinted in Vintage Masters. Within a couple weeks, their value should drop, as should Null Rod, which might go from a 14-ticket card to 2 tickets. In the case of the Junk deck, the on-color Moxen will be harder to replace. Lotus Petal is one option, but there is also something like Elvish Spirit Guide, which isn’t a completely dead draw later in the game.
Right now, the non-Powered Junk deck would cost about 900 tickets, but the mana base of Wasteland and the fetch lands represents more than 500 tickets of the price and the black tutors will drop a little bit off of their current combined price tag of 46 tickets. The black, white, and green dual lands will also come down a little bit off of their current 100-ticket total, especially Bayou, which is a MOCS promo that will be released before Vintage Masters is released. All told, without Wasteland and Power this deck might cost about 300-400 by the end of June. Replacing Wasteland is nigh impossible, but some combination of Ghost Quarters, Elvish Spirit Guides, and Null Rods might be good enough. Maybe Sinkhole has a place in this deck, too? Well, probably not… It’s hard to say without being able to test Vintage yet.
Another option is to use the deck that won last year’s Vintage Championship: Merfolk. With Force of Will losing so much of it value, Merfolk is a much more reasonably costed deck than it was 6 months ago. There are no dual lands in Merfolk; thus, the manabase is cheap. Merfolk is a Tier 2 or 3 deck in Modern, so some of the Merfolk are more expensive than they were a year ago, but overall they are relatively inexpensive. Flusterstorm and Null Rod are being reprinted and will have their prices slashed. The Vintage Championship-winning deck used 4 pieces of Power, which gave the deck some added reach. On the other hand the deck can be played well without them. Worst case scenario, you only have to buy 3 pieces of Power: Mox Sapphire, Time Walk, and Ancestral Recall (Black Lotus could be skipped, IMHO, even if it makes the deck that much more explosive).
If you are looking for a version with less Power, here is a Bazaar of Moxen trial winning Merfolk deck:
Vintage Merfolk by Ivan Fusbri
Here is Joel Lim’s deck for reference:
Vintage Reel Fish by Joel Lim
Ivan Fusbri’s non-Powered Merfolk deck clocks in at a little over 800 tickets, but 440 comes from the cost of Wasteland and another 120 comes from the current cost of Force of Will. Assuming Force drops down to the 15-20 range after a couple weeks, that shaves about 40-60 tickets off the price of the deck. Without Wasteland and accounting for the drop in the price of Force, this deck would be in the range of 320-360 tickets.
In all three cases, these decks are respectable and much cheaper than decks that rely on Power/Mishra’s Workshop/etc. Grinding Vintage Masters packs in Vintage DEs is possible for any of those decks, with Dredge being the most powerful and competitive. Unfortunately, one of the best mana denial cards in the non-Dredge decks was not reprinted in Vintage Masters: Wasteland
The Wasteland conundrum
If there were a single card excluded from Vintage Masters which has caused the most consternation from players, it would be the expensive uncommon from Tempest. Prior to the full set reveal, Wasteland had dropped to below 70 tickets on speculation that the card would find its way into Vintage Masters. In the first couple of hours after the reveal, the card’s price jumped to 90+. Now that LED and Force are being reprinted, only Rishadan Port will be more expensive on MTGO. While Port now inherits the crown for most expensive card online, it is hardly used in Vintage or Legacy. Wasteland, on the other hand, is omnipresent in Legacy and almost nearly as much in Vintage.
Clearly, most people are upset at the omission of Wasteland due to the fact that it was already very expensive and that the rest of Vintage Masters is full of other key cards. The unfortunate reality is that some cards had to be left out of the set and we would all be talking about Misdirection or Show and Tell, etc., in the same vein if Wasteland was in the set after all. (Note: I am not saying that Wasteland is as sparsely used as the other two cards mentioned; I’m simply saying that the presence of Wasteland would have cast the negative light on the next most expensive/important Vintage card that was skipped over instead).
My hope is that the lack of Wasteland is a sign that it will be offered in one form or another in the very near future. The upcoming From the Vault: Annihilation is a logical candidate based on the theme of the set. There is a purported image going around online of the contents of the set and it lacks Wasteland, but the validity of that image is being called into question. If not in the FTV set, then perhaps the fact that Wasteland had a new art commissioned for last year’s Legacy Championship is a positive sign that it will be used for an upcoming MOCS season as the chase promo. Ideally, that season will line up with Vintage Masters release in July in order to quell some of the price gains Wasteland has seen over the last few days.
What else missed the cut that we should take note of?
Cards that have been revealed to not be in Vintage Masters have already started to climb in price. For anyone interested in getting into Vintage, your time is running out to obtain the important support cards on the cheap (Pyroblast, Mystical Tutor, Cabal Therapy, etc.) that failed to make it into Vintage Masters. That said, here are the major omissions which should start to become scare and increase in price over the next couple of weeks/months:
Show and Tell
City of Traitors
Maze of Ith
Candelabra of Tawnos
Helm of Obedience
Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale
(*Widespread speculation that the ONS fetch lands will be reprinted in an upcoming standard set so as to allow them to enter the Modern card pool. Unlikely to be before the fall set due to the shock lands being Standard-legal. If you want to play with these before fall 2014, pick them up now.)
(#Cradle is the upcoming June MOCS promo, so it’s best to wait until they are released at the end of June, when prices will drop further.)
(&These cards are obtainable by buying the $30 Commander 2013 decks that they were printed in. These may see a slight bump in price, but will never exceed the 30-ticket price tag as there is an infinite supply of the C13 decks online.)
The list above includes the most expensive cards that see either sporadic or widespread Vintage play. There are a few other cards which mainly see Legacy play and rarely if ever Vintage (e.g., Sneak Attack), thus for the purpose of this article I excluded them.
I highly recommend anyone obtain any cards on this list that you expect to use in Vintage. I’m sure some speculators will read that and jump all over the list if they haven’t done so already. All the more reason to beat them to the punch!
We must also consider that any Vintage-playable Modern-legal cards (which were ineligible for Vintage Masters) are also prime targets to pick up. Prices on these might not rise dramatically, and a significant part of the current value may be tied up in Modern usage, but they should still see at least modest gains.
The Million $$ Question: Price of Power?
Everyone wants to know what they can expect to pay for Power in a few weeks. This is perhaps the most difficult question any MTGO financial expert could answer, and I’m no expert for that matter. The issue is two-fold:
- There is no precedent. No card has ever had 1:53 odds to obtain, and very few chase cards require someone to obtain just a single copy for their collection.
- The Power represents feelings of nostalgia, nobility, and wealth. Few people have ever been able to hold a Black Lotus, let alone own one. With near mint Unlimited Black Lotus commanding a $3,000 price tag lately, will people act irresponsibly and demand the sun and moon before they’ll trade it, or any other Power?
If we are to make any sort of correlation to precedents, the best place to look is Modern Masters. By all accounts, Modern Masters sold very well despite there being exactly one card worth more than 30 tickets after the 2nd or 3rd week of drafting: Tarmogoyf. A single Tarmogoyf was found in 1:120 packs. In those same 120 packs of Vintage Masters, you should get about 2 pieces of Power. Thus, a full playset of Tarmogoyf would take the same number of packs as 8 pieces of Power. Tarmogoyf was going for ~$65 if I recall correctly, and thus $260 for the set. I’m not saying that Power should be ~$300 for the full set of 9, but it shouldn’t be that far off, should it?
Beyond ‘Goyf, only about 7 cards in Modern Masters were worth more than the pack itself: Vendilion Clique, Dark Confidant, Cryptic Command, Vedalken Shackles, Elspeth, Knight-Errant, and both Sword of Fire and Ice and Sword of Light and Shadow. Despite that, the set fired over and over again. If we take Modern Masters as a price reference, and seeing that it is the closest approximation to what Vintage Masters is, why would we assume that Power is even needed in order for the set to be worth drafting? The answer to that is obvious, there is more interest in Modern than Vintage… or so we might assume.
Vintage Masters alone has way more value than Modern Masters ever presented even if you leave out Power. Force, LED, Duals, Workshop, Mana Drain, Dack Fayden, Tutors, etc. These were all cards that were worth more than $7 when few people even used them (Legacy staples aside). I have a hard time believing that Power is going to be that expensive unless people get irrational fear about missing out on them or people that open them have unrealistic expectations to their value. If they believe they won PowerBall with a prize of free drafts for 2 months and refuse to sell their Mox Ruby for less than 200 tix, then we might have a problem on our hands. I hope that isn’t the case and players realize how much more drafting they can do if they sell the piece of Power that they just drafted and will never build a deck with it. This obviously is more applicable to grinders than the casual player who lucks out and pulls a piece of Power in 1 of their only 2 Vintage Masters drafts.
Initially (first 2-3 weeks, perhaps), there will be a high price for Power as demand outpaces supply. You can’t really play a Vintage DE without Power and expect to win every match against other players that have fully Powered decks. Once supply starts to catch up, I think we will be seeing Power prices like this:
Overall, I think Vintage Masters looks like it will be a fun set to draft and I can’t wait to start ripping open some packs. I’ll be sure to have some videos up drafting Vintage Masters as soon as possibly can, though I am probably in the bottom 2% of drafters in the entire world. Hopefully the fact that no one has drafted the set before will help even the odds a little bit!
Regardless, this is an exciting time for MTGO and for Vintage in general. In a few weeks, people will be able to play Vintage from the comfort of their own home at any time of the day. I don’t expect MTGO to become the go-to place to play Vintage, but I do expect it to have a substantial impact on the metagame.
Clan Magic Eternal
Follow me on Twitter @enderfall.