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Ultimate Finance Guide to Ultimate Masters

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Masters set preview season is one of my favorite time of year. As a writer that writes almost exclusively about the price of Magic cards, Masters sets give me the chance to write a lot. Well, maybe almost too much this time. This set is jam packed with value. I'm going to take the most important cards in the set and break them down into the types of reprints they are. If you're not familiar with what I mean by "type of reprint" you should take a look at this article.

Low Demand, Low Supply

These cards are typically the oldest on the list and often the least desirable but incredibly expensive due to their rarity. Many of these cards people assume are on the reserved list, but in reality they aren't. Most of them are popular in a single format and don't have the wide appeal that is needed to have a price rebound. My best guesses on the most important of these are:

Karakas - Despite being important to the only deck that doesn't play reserved list cards in Legacy, it's not a very high demand card. Previously it was only printed as an uncommon in Legends and a mythic in Eternal Masters. There are just not many copies of Karakas available. The fact that it is banned in Commander seals its fate. Right now the card is pre-ordering for $40 but I wouldn't be surprised if it dips down to $20, which is closer to the recently reprinted Rishadan Port.

Back to Basics - After it got bought out at the end of last September it has been on a low decline because there wasn't much interest in the card at the new price. This card is also a lot like Karakas in that it only gets played in Legacy. Miracles decks don't play many and this isn't the type of card that people were waiting to buy before getting the rest of their deck. Tundra and Volcanic Island are much bigger bottle necks to the demand of Back to Basics. I expect this to be $10-15 when the dust settles. It's legal in Commander but it isn't in particularly popular decks and the decks that might want it don't always include it.

Temporal Manipulation - This is essentially just a renamed Time Warp. Time Warp can be found as cheaply as $10. Time Warp has also been reprinted a few times so it's not exactly a fair comparison. Looking at Temporal Mastery is a better example. Right now you can find copies of that for about $10 and that's after it saw a huge increase in demand from Commander players that wanted it for their new Aminatou, the Fateshifter decks. I expect Temporal Manipulation to fall somewhere around $10 because people are more likely to buy the cheaper equivalent Time Warp first. If you weren't aware, there is also a 3rd Time Warp variant called Capture of Jingzhou from Portal Three Kingdoms. Given the fact that P3K cards have been reprinted relatively recently, I would not recommend holding onto any Capture of Jingzhous for fear of a reprint crushing the price.

Bitterblossom - This card is expensive because people remember it being good but it's a fringe sideboard card usually and in some very optimistic Modern faeries decks. I would not expect it to continue to hold its current price. There are too many other higher demand cards for this to keep much value. I expect a $10-15 price tag once the dust has settled.

Phyrexian Altar - This card has never been reprinted so it is hard for me gauge how the reprint will truly affect the price. I don't know how much the demand for this card will increase at $30 versus the previous $60. The most similar cards to compare this to are Altar of Dementia and Ashnod's Altar (and no, it's not because they're all altars). Those two cards were quite expensive before being reprinted and have a similar functional purpose (sacrifice a creature for no mana). Altar of Dementia is a $5 Conspiracy rare and Ashnod's Altar is a $5 Eternal Masters uncommon. The fact that Ashnod's Altar makes mana seems to be what pushes it over the top because there is a lot more supply due to it also being in Chronicles, Fifth Edition, and Sixth Edition. I think $25 is still too much for Phyrexian Altar but $10 might be too low. Keep an eye on this one if you're looking to get it. It will come down to how much of this is printed and how many people snap up the Karns, Lilianas, and Snapcaster Mages.

Phyrexian Tower - This card is not on the reserved list! I know you're probably surprised since Tolarian Academy, Gaea's Cradle, and Serra's Sanctum are (this is part of that cycle). Phyrexian Tower was only printed once in Urza's Saga which lead to its increasingly taxing price tag. At this point I don't think people will rush out to buy these. Most of the price will probably be due to price memory rather than actual demand. Many of the people that will purchase Phyrexian Tower will also purchase Phyrexian Altar but most of the people that purchase Phyrexian Altar will not purchase Phyrexian Tower. That is due to how color restrictions work in Commander (for all intents and purposes, Phyrexian Tower counts as a Black card for Commander deck-building). As such, I would say that Tower will end up $5-10 less than Altar. The only thing that I think will be extremely expensive is foil Phyrexian Tower. Phyrexian Tower was in Urza's Saga which is the last set that did not include pack foils. As a result, this is the first foil printing for Phyrexian Tower and may be $50-100.

Mikaeus, the Unhallowed - This is a pretty popular Commander card but not so much that it will deserve its current $20 price tag. I expect you will be able to find these for closer to $10 within a week or so of release as people that don't play Commander will try to dump their "bulk mythic"

Runed Halo - This is one of the quintessential low demand but super low supply cards in Modern. It's exclusively a sideboard card and is pretty fringe at best. It's most similar analogous is Auriok Champion which was $25 and has now cratered to $4. I would be surprised if Runed Halo was more than $5 in 3 months.

Containment Priest - Containment Priest is another low demand low supply card. It was only printed in Commander 2014 and this will be the first time it is available as a pack foil (it was available as an Amonkhet Invocation but many players don't like that card frame). I would sell or trade any copies I open that aren't foil in the foreseeable future. This feels like another future $5 rare.

Balefire Dragon - I know a lot of people saw Balefire Dragon and were like "what?". This Innistrad dragon is quite popular in Commander and has a pretty hefty price tag to go along with what a lot of people assume is another bulk mythic dragon. That being said, I don't expect this to be more than $5 when the dust settles because even moderately playable Red mythics seem to tank beyond reason. Kiki-Jiki, Mirror-Breaker put up a good fight but Imperial Recruiter showed us that any card call fall from grace.

Sigarda, Host of Herons - Sigarda's Sisters Gisela and Bruna have been reprinted pretty recently so I was surprised initially to see another angel. Apparently this Sigarda card had never been reprinted and has a pretty unique effect. That being said, I don't expect her to be very expensive. Gisela is the most popular of the three and is only $5 despite a large number of reprints. My guess is Sigarda will be another $5 mythic.

Bridge from Below - This card is not played in Modern Dredge. It's played in Legacy and Vintage Dredge but it isn't really the card breaking the bank on the deck. Lion's Eye Diamond and Bazaar of Baghdad continue to be the biggest barriers to entry. There is some success with it in Modern Bridge / Vengevine decks but I'm not sure how popular these will be since the whole deck minus Blackcleave Cliffs is being reprinted in this set. This feels to me like a card you will be able to get for $5 or less if you are okay with waiting.

Vexing Devil - This is a casual all-star that has never been reprinted but now that it has I would expect it to behave similar to Adarkar Valkyrie and never recover. Maybe it will be $3 in a year.

Disrupting Shoal - This card was expensive because every time someone played a few copies it would spike but nobody would ever sell them. "When are they going to do arcane spells again?" is the usual reasoning for not selling. A lot of old rare stuff is on the pseudo-reserved list because it is so hard to reprint. They found some space in this set to reprint a lot of arcane spells so I expect many of them will be worth much less than they are now. This one has almost no demand keeping it afloat. Expect to find these for $2 in the near future.

Nourishing Shoal - This card is substantially more popular than Disrupting Shoal due to the Grishoalbrand decks (If you're unfamiliar with the deck, you can check out Jeff Hoogland's video playing it here). Unlike Goryo's Vengeance and Through the Breach, you don't play Nourishing Shoal without those two. So in essence, much like Phyrexian Tower, people that want Nourishing Shoal want Vengeance and Breach but people that want Breach might not want Vengeance or Shoal. The demand for this should be low and the price will reflect that.

Flagstones of Trokair - This is a card that was expensive because it was rare and not because it is desirable. It's not necessary in anything and only a hindrance in a lot of decks. I expect this to be close to a bulk rare.

High Demand, High Supply

This includes all the staples you know about, cards everyone should recognize and if you need them you will need to buy them sooner rather than later because they will get more expensive. I know this seems like an obvious conclusion to make but there will be people in 3 to 6 months complaining about how these cards got reprinted and are still expensive. I don't need to list all the details but this is a list of cards I would be very interested in picking up release weekend:

A lot of these cards are already quite expensive but, as we saw from previous Masters sets, they can increase very quickly after a reprint. Snapcaster Mage was a headliner of Modern Masters 2017 and only a year later has rebounded to its pre-reprint price. I've also included a few commons and uncommons that are not particularly expensive but are quite useful and the cost will add up over time. I know it might not seem like a lot to buy Faithless Looting for $1 right now but it is so ubiquitous it could end up like Lava Spike which was $5 before being reprinted. Cards in this category are "you should buy these now if you have any intentions of playing with them in the future." So you may not want to play Tron right now but if you want to play it next year or after an Urza land reprint, you should own them now.

Curiosities & Oddities

I touched on this earlier but there are a number of cards in this set that could be quite expensive that you may not have realized. For example, Kodama's Reach is not particularly expensive at $2.50 but the newest printing in this set has new art and is only $1. Despite being printed many times, there are only two foil printings of Kodama's Reach (Modern Masters 2013 and Champions of Kamigawa)so foils basically don't exist. Foils range from $5 (MM13) to $12 (CHK) and I expect this art by Jon Avon to be particularly desirable. I would take note from the packs you open to keep track of it. Here's a list of things you should be think about -

Cards with new art:

Box Toppers

I wish I had more information to share here but these are incredibly rare right now and most stores are not offering them for pre-order because the number of boxes you need to open to guarantee a certain number is excessive. I expect to have an update article next month with the trajectory of these extremely rare pieces. At this point all I can suggest is that if you have one to just hang onto it. Most of them won't drop drastically in value unless there is a truly huge amount of this product available.

Wrapping it up

If you purchased a box of Ultimate Masters you will probably be pleasantly surprised when you open it. This set has a good mix of necessary reprints, preemptive reprints, and a good draft experience. A lot of cards have been downshifted in rarity and will help make a big dent in their price tag. Like most Masters sets, the headliner cards will quickly recover most of their price decreases. Don't sleep on this opportunity to get staples for cheaper! If you have any other questions about specific cards feel free to tweet at me on twitter (@Phrost_) or submit a question on my podcast's page.