Magic The Gathering: Modern Masters 2015 Review

Posted in Kulturecade by - May 24, 2015

Some four years ago, Wizards of the Coast forever changed the competitive Magic landscape by introducing Modern, a format featuring cards from nearly half of Magic’s long and storied history. Seasoned vets were thrilled, finally having a chance to brew with some of the most powerful cards in the game’s recent history. However, Newer players weren’t as receptive. Prices on many cards that are run in quads spiked above and beyond what many were willing or able to afford. The format was slowly turning into “Diet-Legacy,” with some cards breaking the $50 or even $100 barrier.

Enter the Modern Masters series.

While Modern Masters is presented as a draft set, lets not kid ourselves. Modern Masters as a franchise exists solely to bring more copies into the modern tournament scene. Its a chance for Wizards of the Coast to attempt to bring down the bloated price of cards like, Tarmogoyf, from $200 to a more reasonable $140. The drafting aspect of the first Modern Masters release was a fun experience and a great way to get some playability out of a $240 purchase. If a fun draft is the desired outcome, then Modern Masters 2015 is not the purchase for you.

After many simulated drafts, Modern Masters 2015 feels more like a goose chase than its predecessor. Daybreak Coronet will likely be taken if opened, however there’s little aura support. Mox Opal is a very obvious pick if opened, yet Metalcraft as an archetype isn’t that great. In my experience, mock drafting usually resulted in taking a card like Arcbound Ravager pack one, and attempting to slam it in with a mishmash of tokens or other junk artifacts. If that wasn’t the case, it was the realization that if I had spend real money on this “draft”, I could very well go home with a Lodestone Myr being my best pick. Its much easier to stomach spending ten dollars on a junk draft than it is to spend likely $40 or more and leave with nothing.

Structurally, Modern Masters 2015 is a bit of a mess. Tier One, a collection of decks many consider to be the best in the format, get a few token cards to support them. Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker and Splinter Twin make an appearance, however there are few cards to compliment them, meaning new players must turn to the internet or, more desirably, their local game store to purchase singles.

Tier Two and Tier Three decks however get plenty of support at all levels of rarity. While its highly unlikely that at this point, an Elemental deck is going to Top 8 a Grand Prix, some newer players may discover a new favorite deck or their first modern build through this set. More players is always a good thing. Whether or not its worth ten dollars a pack for said new player to discover this new deck when the search function on a store’s website exists is up to you, dear reader.

Breaking down the set color by color, the picture is not quite as gloomy. White and colorless contain some powerful reprints and staples that have needed a reprint for some time. All three Eldrazi lords are back in print, giving players a chance to pickup the three most expensive cards in the ever popular “Tron” deck. Affinity sees the reprint of Dispatch and the sideboard must have Leyline of Sanctity, a card many (including yours truly) was certain was safe from a reprint, squeaks into the set as well.

As a whole, White will go on to be the best color in terms of value. When cracking a pack, hope to see a plains in the corner. Although Indomitable Archangel in the set are rare, Elesh Norn, Daybreak Coronet, and Iona all sit at rare or mythic rare. Below the rare level, the commons and uncommon slots are rounded out with tokens and a few pieces for a bad artifact build.

Blue also contains a few standout rares. Cryptic Command, a card that has retained its bloated price despite a notable drop in tournament play, returns for a fourth printing. Also returning for a fourth printing is Vendillion Clique, a tournament staple in many control decks and as a sideboard entrant in some Merfolk lists. Both cards see prices over the $40 mark and will likely retain that price despite this recent printing.

Most exciting though are reprints of cards the format has needed for sometime. While somewhat plentiful on the internet, in the wild, Hurkyl’s Recall is a difficult to find sideboard must have for mono-blue decks. Remand, despite a reprint in a recent supplemental product, has actually increased in value. It’s inclusion in Modern Masters 2015 at uncommon insures we’ll thankfully never pay more than ten dollars for this main deck staple again.

The uncommon and common slots are relatively boring, populated with the likes of Helium Squirter and Cloud Elemental. The exception being Flashfreeze, a slightly underplayed counterspell that’s good for taking care of pesky Siege Rhinos. Beware though, the rare slots are also clogged by junk that has not, and will likely never see competitive Modern play. Inexorable Tide, a fringe card at best, returns at rare, along with longtime proxy backer, Guile. Also on the fringe is Argent Sphinx. An important aside, those three cards listed can all be had for less than two dollars.

Recently released from the penalty box, Bitterblossom returns at mythic rare, begging to be slammed into a deck. Along with Vendillion Clique, a lucky consumer can acquire a few copies of the pricier components of what at one time was the deck to beat. At the second mythic slot is Dark Confidant, a pricier card that has seen a steep drop off in play now that Jund (Green, Black and Red) decks have seen a drop in play.

Your most exciting black card after those two? Surgical Extraction. An underplayed rare that can be put into any deck due to its single black Phyerexian Mana cost. All slots are occupied by cards that see little to no play in competitive Modern and will be lucky to not be among the last picks in a draft. With little affordable removal, Black is more aligned with the current state of black removal in the game than being representative of the Black removal suite available in the modern format.

As a whole, Red fares slightly better than Black. Kiki Jiki, Mirror Breaker returns at mythic along with dollar mythic Comet Storm. A frustrated groan is ensured for any one who opens the later. Splinter Twin gets her second printing, a card that has returned to the top of the mountain thanks in part to the banning of Treasure Cruise and Dig Through Time.

Below our standouts sits some of the same uninteresting and undesirable cards that plague the colors before it. Hellkite Charger, Spikeshot Elder and Thunderblust all sit at rare, none see any substantial modern play and none even come close to covering the price of the pack. A bright spot for Red is the inclusion of Lightning Bolt, a must run in any red deck. The card hasn’t seen a printing in some time, which is great for players that may have missed it since its last printing and long to pull a foil copy.

Its easy to suggest that Green has the most exciting suite of cards simply because of the return of Tarmogoyf. The much bemoaned mythic returns for a third printing, one that has already affected prices in a positive manner. As of press time, pulling one ‘Goyf returns more than half of your box. Pulling A Nobel Hierarch at rare will certainly help close the rest of that gap.

Hierarch is likely the most exciting reprint for most. The card once saw a price tag of over $60 per copy. Ran in quad, her inclusion in this set has sent her price back to a more reasonable $40. Her appearance opens up many doors for players unable to build the decks they want due to her high price tag which will likely fall lower in the short term.

Green also sports the reprints of Primeval Titan at rare and Mutagenic growth at uncommon, two cards, while not expensive will make for interesting draft decks. The junk rare bug unfortunately strikes Green as well, Scute Mob, Overwhelming Stampede and Ant Queen all have made their way into our rare pool. The total value of those three cards as of press time? Around $3.50…

Multicolored and artifacts perhaps fare worst of all, each sporting a laundry list of cards with little to no value in both performance and dollars. Few of the rares see any play in tournament modern decks, save for Fulminator Mage and Mox Opal, two cards in desperate need of a reprint. Sharing space with Fulminator Mage and Mox Opal though are Horde Of Notions, Nobilis of War, Chimeric Mass, Lodestone Golem and Long-Forgotten Gohei. Each of those cards listed can be found in packs in the rare slot and can be had as of press time for under a dollar a piece. Even the land cycle is undesirable, the featured player being the Ravnica “Bounce” lands. Great in Commander, but not in Modern.

Fan reaction online to this set has generally not been positive, and for good reason. Many cards that seemed to be locks for a reprint have been omitted, shooting the prices on many staples ever higher. While understandable that not every single must have in modern can be added to a “draft” set, the absence of cards such as Path to Exile, Sword of Feast and Famine, Damnation and Serum Visions hurts the format far more than this set of cards does to advance it. While Wizards has thrown us a bone and made Serum Visions available as an upcoming Friday Night Magic promo, this has seemingly done little to bring down the current price tag of ten dollars on this must have blue common.

Modern Masters 2015 is far more than a missed opportunity. Its a regressive experience for those who have been boxed out of modern due to availability and pricing. Spending ten dollars or more on a pack to open an Endrek Sahr, Master Breeder is not an experience I’m okay with. There are cards here that you want and should play with. There should be a Wilt-Leaf Liege in your binder, right next to the Blinkmoth Nexus. Having a foil in every pack is exciting, especially when it’s a rare… just not a Precursor Golem.

Despite everything said prior… you should draft this set. Just like you should draft every set. Drafting has made me a better player and I guarantee it will do the same thing for you. Drafting Modern Masters 2015 will likely be an exercise in advanced card evaluation. After you take your Archbound Ravager, then what? Do you try a junk affinity, or enjoy your $20 dollar card and build elsewhere?

While I feel you should draft the set, that recommendation ends there. A box purchase is a risky proposition. Box prices are anywhere from $200.00 to $240.00 online and local game shops will likely fall in line. Even with a Tarmogoy pull, with him currently at $160, you’re gonna need a lot of Swans of Bryn Argol to make up that pricing gap.

If you must buy a box, as I will likely begrudgingly do, I recommend drafting the set with friends. Crack the packs and sleeve them up. Order a pizza and grab some beers. The enjoyable time you will have with your friends will overshadow the money lost in your gamble. In the end though, if you choose that road then you haven’t wasted your money at all, and I’m sure your friends will agree.  

This post was written by
Chris Stachiw is the Editor-in-Chief and co-host of the Kulturecast. He's a native Californian with a penchant for sarcasm and a taste for the cinematic bizarre. You'll often find him wandering the wasteland of Nebraska searching for the meaning of life and possibly another rare Pokemon.
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