Modern Horizon spoilers are well underway and we have seen a solid mix of fun and powerful inclusions. Ultimate Masters over the holidays was a great product at all. I would argue that over time WotC has improved premium sets quite a bit. Some of their ideas, for better or worse, have fallen by the wayside over time though. Today I would like to discuss the five factors that would go into creating the perfect premium Magic set.
Watermark the Reprints
Let’s get started with softball. I think this is something that nearly all of us can agree on. Watermarks look great. Up until Masters 25 we had only seen them to represent story-concepts such as the guilds of Ravnica. It gave the cards some flare and the foils looked amazing. Masters 25 made this truly striking by watermarking every card in the set with the set symbol of their original printing. Just look at this Thalia for example. A thing of beauty. I understand that they were doing this to represent the 25 years the game had been around and to to highlight that every set had a reprinted card. Let’s not stick to this restriction though. Every premium set should watermark reprints in such away. Please do not make me wait until Masters 30 in 2023.
Reprint Cards Within the Legal Range
This one should also be pretty obvious but Wizards missed the memo with Modern Horizons. While I have enjoyed the spoilers so far, I cannot help but lament the lack of Modern-legal reprints. The announcement that Modern Horizons would not contain any caused a significant spike in the enemy-colored fetchlands. They were seized by profiteers who then new that the supply would be locked for the foreseeable future. This led to Misty Rainforest, for example, jumping in price by $25 or 50%. Without consistent reprints, the format staples will reach absurd prices as popularity grows and demand increases. We have only had one premium set without reprints and while it seems fine, it will reduce to their ability to make the format reasonably affordable going forward. Reprinting cards is less expensive than creating entirely new ones so this should help WotC’s bottom line.
Create New Cards
This one came about a few years ago and has been well-received. In the past, draftable sets that contained new cards had to go through Standard and were therefore restricted in power level and complexity. WotC’s first foray away from this was Conspiracy in 2014. This multi-player draft set was not my cup of tea but it provided many interesting cards for Commander players and put Council’s Judgement into Legacy. Since then we also saw a sequel and Battlebond. The strength of these sets were that they reprinted much needed staples while introducing new cards as well. It is the best of both worlds. Of course it is more expensive for WotC to generate new cards. However, they are using the same physical inputs to generate a set whether it is reprint-only or mixed. The premium price we pay ought to cover creative resource inputs.
This artificial restriction needs to fall by the wayside. Do not get me wrong. I respect the NWO approach to set design for Standard legal sets. That is an entry point to the game and we need to limit complexity, especially at lower rarities for the sake of Limited. I understand that the Standard can only have so many keywords. However, premium sets are not entry points to the game and they will not go into a Standard format. These sets are more expensive to draft and are meant to cater to already invested players. The people who draft premium Magic sets are perfectly capable of figuring out any keywords that they do not instantly recognize. The restriction of keywords just makes it difficult to reprint specific staples. Engineered Explosives climbed to almost $100 over the years because the Sunburst mechanic would force them to put a handful of bad cards in the set. Eventually WotC just said screw it and put Engineered Explosives in Ultimate Masters. It was the only Sunburst card and the only one off keyword in the set. This increased supply cut the card down to a much more reasonable $20. WotC has taken this to the extreme with Modern Horizons by featuring more than 40 keywords. Let’s hope that this is not a one-and-done move.
Buy-a-Box Promos need to be Box Toppers
Buy-a-box promos are an abomination really. I do not mean alternate printings of cards that can be found within the pack. Those produce unique awesome cards and reward players for purchasing bulk product. The issue comes in when the card is not widely available. The promo Search for Azcanta was a solid idea. Players could pay more if they wanted that version but were not obligated. Cards like Nexus of Fates are a mistake. The only option to obtain these cards is to either buy-a-box or pay top dollar on the secondary market. To keep the price reasonable in the face of such small supply, WotC has to make the card largely unplayable to keep demand low. So it is either overpriced for the secondary market or unenticing for the sealed product buyers. On top of this, warp-prone foils being the only option for a tournament playable card is a logistical issue.
Needless to say, I am not happy about Flusterstorm being the buy-a-box promo in Modern Horizons. This would be fine if it were an alternate art and the regular were in the set. This is not the case though. Flusterstorm will be Modern legal and in much greater demand. Unfortunately, the supply will not be increasing at the same rate so the price gouging has already begun; existing copies have doubled in price. We do not need to keep going through this, WotC already solved this. Ultimate Masters was a great set and it first tore onto the scene with Box Toppers. These are some of the most beautiful Magic cards out there. I do understand that it may be expensive to commission all of these art extensions so I could accept it being limited to the Mythic rares. The point is that these cards will be of lower supply, and therefore more desirable, but they will only be a luxury. Nobody will ever need a Box topper in order to play their deck optimally. It will be better on average for the sealed product purchaser and will not force the constructed player to overpay for a card. This is a win-win.
So putting that all together, the perfect premium set in my eyes would be a mix of reprints and original cards without a restriction on keywords. Furthermore, the reprinted cards would be watermarked and the mythic rares would be featured as box toppers. I respect the position that these factors would be less novel if used for each premium set but a man can dream. Can you think of anything that I have left out though? Do you have an original idea that WotC needs to try? Come share it with us in our discussion group. Or if you would like to take a swing at writing content for the site you can contact us directly here. We will be back tomorrow with an introduction to Oathbreaker. Until then my friends.