Wizards made a lot of promises when it founded Modern. Some of these were explicit, like providing a new non-rotating format for high level play. Others were implicit, such as actively supporting Modern with new cards that could improve existing decks. And others were so confusing we are still trying to figure out what Wizards intended, e.g. anything whatsoever involving the banlist.
But one promise that has remained constant since the format’s birth is reprints to address card availability issues. As Tom LaPille said in the inaugural “A Modern Proposal” article, “…many of you have called for a non-rotating format that doesn’t have the card availability problems of Legacy. We propose Modern as that format.” This was the promise, and Modern Masters is the fulfillment of that promise.
It’s no secret the original Modern Masters, a reprint-only set of key Modern staples, was one of (if not the) most successful releases in Magic history. Modern Masters 2015 (MM2) looks to repeat that. With three Grand Prix events in its opening weekend, a higher allocation to stores, and Modern generally growing as a format, “MM2” is poised to be just as successful as MM1, if not moreso. This is true for both Wizards, who will make a small fortune on the product, and for players, who will see card prices drop and format popularity increase. But Modern players don’t just care about the product’s success, they care much more about what cards are going to be reprinted. We already know Tarmogoyf, Karn, Liberated, and a few others are included, but what else are we likely to see around May 22? In this article, I give a few ideas about cards we might see, and some ways you can try to predict what cards will get reprinted.
How are Reprints Selected?
Disclaimer alert! We don’t actually know how Wizards has selected cards for reprinting in MM2. But we do know a few functions the set needs to serve, and we know what cards were reprinted in MM1. Although this isn’t as good as harassing Erik Lauer over Twitter for answers (@ErikLauer…go forth my minions!), it’s an effective way to use the information we have to make educated guesses. It’s also the framework I’m going to use for the predictions later in this article.
Let’s start with, arguably, the most important feature of MM2: it’s both a set for Constructed and for Limited. Just look at the set’s tagline on the official release announcement – “Draft Like a Master”. Need more proof? Check out that triple GP weekend format. Based on these facts and our knowledge of MM1’s draft success last year, we know Limited is an enormously influential element of MM2. Sealed and Draft experiences will determine reprints. Why else do you think Keiga, the Tide Star and company were reprinted at Mythic in MM1? Or why Verdeloth the Ancient was reprinted at all, let alone as a rare? Limited is both a huge market and a huge draw to the game, and nothing screams “Limited cash cow” like a Modern Masters set. This has two critical implications for card reprints.
- We will see “Limited filler” (and Limited-focused cards). Many of the cards that make for an enjoyable draft experience don’t necessarily help you finish out your UR Twin or Affinity deck. We need to expect these kinds of cards. As a corollary to this, we will also see Magic forums’ favorite cards to complain about: “EDH/casual trash”. See Doubling Season for this principle in action.
- Rarity will be affected by Limited demands. Some players dream of a world where Goyf is reprinted at common and we can all rejoice in putting that $700-$800 into a family vacation, a new laptop, or more Modern decks! But a draft where every player has 1-2 Goyfs in their deck sounds more like “Draft Like a Masochist” than the intended tagline. This means Wizards will balance the need to reprint cards to lower prices with the need to keep Limited fun and balanced.
Another important datapoint in predicting MM2 reprints is MM1 itself. The first Modern Masters set gives us an idea about how cards get rarity shifted, how the set is balanced between Constructed and Limited, what kind of cards get reprinted, etc. We can use those principles to make a few other guesses about reprint dynamics that will affect the MM2 spoiler.
- Cycles will return! MM1 saw a number of cycles including Cryptic Command and friends, those awful Kamigawa dragons, the Vivid Marsh lands, and more. MM2 will definitely see its own cycles.
- Constructed-worthy mechanics will drive Limited play. Back in 2013, this meant Faeries, Affinity, Storm, and a few other themes that had already proven themselves in Constructed play. It also meant stuff like GIANTS (get ’em Thundercloud Shaman!), which was decidedly not Constructed-worthy.
- Cards will be reprinted just for Constructed Modern players. MM 1.0 may have had a lot of Limited cards that didn’t have a big impact on the Modern economy, but it also had cards that definitely did. This includes Dark Confidant, Arcbound Ravager, Cryptic Command, and many others. These kinds of cards are guaranteed to return in MM2.
We could spend a lot of time brainstorming up different conditions that could affect MM2 reprint decisions (e.g. timeline of making reprint decisions, synergy with current/upcoming Modern cards, price fluctuation delays, likelihood of a Standard reprint, etc). So here’s one last piece we need to consider in our predictions: MM2 will see reprints from “Zendikar, Mirrodin, Ravnica, Lorwyn, Kamigawa, and Alara.” Looking over our MTG set history, this means we are definitely seeing reprints from both the blocks covered in MM1, but also some new ones. This will include:
- MM1 repeat blocks: Mirrodin (2003-2004), Kamigawa (2004-2005), Ravnica (2005-2006), Time Spiral (2006-2007: See Goyf), Lorwyn-Shadowmoor (2007-2008)
- MM2 new blocks: Shards of Alara (2008-2009), Zendikar (2009-2010), Scars of Mirrodin (2010-2011)
Safe Bet Reprints
Disclaimer alert #2! The author does not take any responsibility for financial decisions made as a result of this article. Also, just because a card feels like a safe bet here, doesn’t mean we will actually end up seeing it in MM2. But if any cards feel “guaranteed” in this set, these are the ones to bank on. Or rather, the cards not to bank on because they are about to get reprinted. Because price is a big part of this, I’m including the median card price from TCGplayer for each entry. I’ll also include the predicted rarity.
Noble Hierarch ($62) – Rare
Mana dorks should not cost sixty dollars. Spending a bunch of money on some awesome planeswalker or splashy effect is one thing. Heck, I’d even do it for all-star powerful cards that weren’t too splashy, like Goyf. But on a mana dork? A glorified Birds of Paradise? No way. New Modern players don’t want to spend that kind of money on a mana dork, and it just feels odd relative to the other cards in this price bracket. Price, however, isn’t the only reason for a Noble Hierarch reprint prediction. She has also featured prominently in top-tier Modern strategies for months, whether in Pod before the bannings, Infect and Abzan Liege after, Zoo in between, and a host of other decks. It’s not like this card suddenly shot up and became popular overnight, so Lauer and his team had to know about it months ago. Hierarch is also unlikely to totally break the Limited format, which all but solidifies her inclusion in the set.
Why rare and not mythic? Like with the Commands, Ravager, Blinkmoth Nexus, Academy Ruins. Blood Moon, etc., Wizards has shown it is willing to keep cards at rare even if they are powerful. Hierarch is no Bob or Goyf, so she should avoid a jump to mythic. This would do wonders for her price tag.
Mox Opal ($48.50) – Mythic
Etched Champion has already been confirmed in MM2, which means metalcraft is coming back. If I’m working at Wizards and want another card to round out my metalcraft theme, Mox Opal is a great choice. Between its home in Modern and Legacy Affinity, not to mention a bunch of more offbeat decks in those formats, it’s a reprint guaranteed to please and excite. Opal is also the kind of card that will only go up if left to its own devices, particularly as Affinity grows in popularity. It’s flavorful, it’s iconic (anything with “Mox” in the name is iconic), it’s enduring, and it’s overall a strong reprint prediction for the set. That said, there is almost no chance this gets bumped to rare. It’s too much of a niche effect to be at rare, and from a draft perspective you don’t want too many players opening this (more for draft quality reasons than power ones).
Goblin Guide ($19.75) – Rare
Affinity might be Modern’s oldest top-tier aggro deck, but Burn is probably its oldest. In every Magic format that has ever existed, you can find pesky red mages trying to burn you to death. Modern is no exception, and although Burn wasn’t quite a top-tier powerhouse back in 2011 or 2012, it has always been a cheap and surprisingly viable addition to the format. Goblin Guide has been a Burn workhorse since Zendikar started, crossing formats, surviving metagame shifts, and showing the world no one does aggression better than those little greenskins. Wizards has a lot of incentive to keep Burn around as a budget-friendly strategy in Modern, and affordable Guides are a great way to make sure that happens. At just under $20, Guide isn’t totally bank-breaking, but it’s pricey enough that continued Burn growth (not to mention format growth) will see Guide keep going up without a supply increase. MM2 is a great opportunity to stop that. As for the Limited perspective, Guide is very aggressive and suggests a format where cost-efficient removal will be available enough to keep fast decks in check. But this wouldn’t stop him from being reprinted. If anything, it encourages a reprint as part of a RDW or Goblins aggressive strategy.
Serum Visions ($8.00) – Common
WHY IS A COMMON $8.00??? A COMMON PRINTED IN THE LAST 10 YEARS??? Repeat after me: “I will not accept a COMMON being EIGHT DOLLARS”. Especially when all that common does is cantrip and scry and sees play in only two top-tier decks (UR Twin and Grixis Delver). Serum Visions is an interesting and totally outrageous case study about what happens when card supply stays constant as demand increases. Wizards hasn’t reprinted this card since Fifth Dawn. It was due for a reprint years ago, let alone in 2015. This is exactly the kind of card MM2 exists for, a common that needs a price drop via a huge supply injection. Expect SV’s price to completely tank once it’s reprinted, which is exactly what Wizards will want to do with this card.
You could probably make reasonable arguments for a number of other inclusions on this list, especially for some of the cards I’m about to talk about in the next section.
Ask the average Modern player about what is likely to get reprinted in MM2, and you will probably hear every Modern staple in existence. Wizards has to make 249 tough choices on its end, which means a lot of cards are ultimately not making the cut. The following cards are decent predictions for MM2 inclusion, although they don’t have quite as much going for them as do those in the section above.
Cryptic Command ($57.00) – Rare
Like Goyf, Command was a victim of its own reprinting. Starting in summer 2013, its price seemed to drop as supply increased and control lost relevance in the metagame. But by mid 2014, its price had climbed back to pre-MM1 levels and just kept climbing. Although it eventually dropped a bit and stabilized around $60, that’s still a lot of money for a card that was already reprinted once to drive down prices. It’s especially problematic given the relative lack of results we see in CC-based decks. Control has enough barriers in Modern, and Wizards is unlikely to want price to be added to those card and metagame-driven ones. The only reason I have Cryptic (and, perhaps by extension, the rest of its cycle) in the “Possible Reprints” section is because we already saw the card in MM1. We know Wizards will reprint cards from MM1 to MM2 (see Goyf), but we don’t know if they will do that for rares and/or for a cycle. I suspect they will, both based on their Limited interplay and Cryptic’s importance in Constructed, but I also wouldn’t be shocked if they didn’t get spoiled with the rest of the set.
Remand ($15.95) – Uncommon
$16 uncommons are way better than eight dollar commons (looking at you, SV), but this is still not a card price you want to see as a new Modern player. It’s not even like Remand has an obvious power level, especially if you are new to the format and don’t understand its function in decks that use it. This card would be more expensive than a lot of rares without its Jace vs. Vraska Duel Deck reprinting, and I imagine Wizards doesn’t want to deal with this issue for the foreseeable future. Reprinting Remand right now will give the card longterm price stability. Modern was founded on a promise of card availability, and although I’m not going to get into that economically absurd argument MTG players love about availability/affordability, I will just say $16 uncommons are not appealing to new players. This is a safe card for draft, a staple Modern effect in Constructed, and overall a card I think we will see reprinted. The only reason we might not see it is that Jace vs. Vraska was a relatively recent release, and Wizards might have miscalculated the effect it had on Remand’s price. If they overestimated the drop, they might not have wanted an MM2 Remand reprint as a result.
Fulminator Mage ($36) – Rare
I remember when Fulminator Mage‘s price exploded: it was a combination of demand from BGx players, a realization its absence from MM1 would mean a sustained supply glut, some success and hype in Living End, and general speculation. But the end result was Mage spiking from around $10 to around $25 practically overnight. That was back in late summer, early fall of 2013, and Mage hasn’t looked back since. Like Remand and SV, it’s hard to look at this card and understand why the price tag is so high. To be honest, that’s actually an issue with a number of Modern cards, but it’s very prominent with Mage, a card that feels (both in play and in theory) like a nonbasics-only Rain of Tears with legs. BGx decks, not to mention Living End, have been around for years in Modern, and Mage’s entry into their arsenal happened before MM2 development started, or certainly before it was finalized. These factors all make it likely that Mage will see a reprint for this next set.
Zendikar manlands (High: Celestial Colonnade $14.75) – Rares
The allied-color manlands of Zendikar give Wizards a few great opportunities. First, they are very solid cards that make for interesting Limited strategies. Second, they are semi-restricted manafixers that enable a variety of different deckstyles. Third, the cards themselves are expensive, particularly Celestial Colonnade which as only gone up in price as the format has aged (this in spite of UWR decks putting up only mediocre results for months). Wizards probably doesn’t want to commit too many rare slots to lands, but given MM2 has 20 more slots overall than did MM1, it’s not a big stretch of the imagination to see five of those filled with rare lands needing a reprint anyway.
One argument against these cards might be the upcoming Battle For Zendikar set in September, where Colonnade and co. could get reprinted (along with, perhaps, some other contentious lands). This is possible but, in my view, not very likely. With enemy fetchlands the obvious reprint choice in BFZ, it seems much more likely we will also have enemy manlands to go along with them. Although this puts a lot of emphasis on enemy color pairings instead of balancing it between allied/enemy ones, there is plenty of room in both subsequent BFZ sets and Magic Origins to compensate for this. Besides, the design space in playable enemy manlands is just too cool. That all said, if we don’t see these cards, we will likely see the Scars fastlands (Blackcleave Cliffs, etc.) instead, which would mean an almost guaranteed return of these manlands in BFZ.
This was definitely the hardest section to write and the hardest card list to narrow down to just four. Cards like Hurkyl’s Recall, Auriok Champion, Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas, and a huge list of other staples also make thematic and financial sense. So don’t be discouraged if your pet card didn’t make the list (please lord give us some Ensnaring Bridge and Leyline of Sanctity!).
“Don’t Bank On It” Reprints
In Magic, there’s no such thing as a “sure thing”. Except maybe that we won’t see delve again for a while. But for the most part, you can never say “never” when it comes to Magic cards. MM2 reprints are no exception, and, ignoring cards that won’t be reprinted because of block cutoffs (e.g. Lily and Snapcaster), it’s dangerous to say any card just won’t make the cut. But with all our earlier principles in mind, here are a few cards I doubt we will see once those MM2 spoilers hit the internet.
Zendikar fetchlands (High: Scalding Tarn, $43) – Rares
More forum and reddit blood/pixels have been spilled over the great Zendikar fetchland debate than over any other reprint debate I can remember. Even up until the last day of KTK spoilers, we were still seeing users who claimed to know a guy who knew a guy who swore on his mother’s 401k these would be in one of the Khans sets. Better not tell mom. A backup option for the fetchlands was always MM2 if the Khans approach never materialized, but I personally didn’t find this very convincing. For me, the big sticking point is Battle For Zendikar’s (emphasis added) release out in September 2015, and if Wizards learned anything from Khans it’s that fetchlands and Modern-reprint appeal drives sales. This suggests they will take a similar approach with BFZ, using the Zendikar fetches as a driving force in that set. BFZ is also going to have a much higher print run than MM2, which will all but guarantee fetchland pricing issues are solved in the long term. A final reason not to expect fetches in MM2 is Standard. Khans showed us contemporary Standard is more than capable of handling these lands in the format, and enemy-colored ones would be unlikely to overturn such a finding. I expect we will see these by year’s end, but not in MM2.
Filter lands (High: Twilight Mire, $34) – Rares
More lands! The ally and enemy-colored filter lands (Twilight Mire, Cascade Bluffs, Fetid Heath, etc.) have always been hot commodities for both Modern, Commander, and casual players. Mire is the most expensive of the batch, but many of their price tags aren’t exactly reasonable. MM2 is a decent opportunity for reprinting them. A number of them would be used in Modern, and many more might be used by decks in the future. Unfortunately, this cycle feels unlikely for a few reasons. For one, this is a big cycle taking up a lot of slots. Sure, the set is 249 cards for MM2 instead of 229 for MM1, but Wizards might not want to commit so many valuable slots to a bunch of rare manafixers. Second, I don’t see these coming back at uncommon because that would be a big rarity shift relative to their pricetag and we didn’t see anything like that in MM1. Wizards could make such a shift if it wanted to, but the precedent isn’t there. Finally, I think the Zendikar manlands are much more likely, which makes a cycle of 10 colorfixers an odd inclusion on top of another five dual lands. Especially if they are all at rare.
Splinter Twin ($24.50) – Rare
Of the three prediction in this last section, this is the one I might most end up eating my words on. From a price perspective, Splinter Twin needs a reprint. It’s also a staple of the format, the linchpin of another iconic Modern top-tier deck. It creates some interesting Limited interactions, is a decent inclusion for a rare slot, and promises to only increase in price over the next months. So why am I betting it won’t be reprinted in MM2? The first reason is the price history. Twin wasn’t under $10 until about February 2014, when it leaped up to the low $20s in just two months. The Deathrite Shaman banning played a big part in this, as the death of the most overpowered versions of BGx Midrange made Twin a comparatively better deck. But then the price dropped for almost a full year back to $15 or so before spiking again in the last month or two to $25. All of this means that Wizards might not have known to get ahead of the price increase for MM2, especially given the design schedule for this set. Of course, Lauer’s team might have predicted the card would go up again, in which case it becomes a more likely reprint target. But it’s just as possible that the price pressures went unnoticed in the MM2 planning stages.
The second reason Twin might not be reprinted is the banlist. Although I don’t personally think Twin is bannable, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if it’s on some kind of R&D watchlist, particularly following the DRS banning. Nothing says buzzkill like opening Twin as your rare if the card is banned in the format, and Wizards might have played it safe by keeping it out of circulation. I am not confident in this rationale because I don’t know if Wizards operates like this, and we don’t have enough datapoints to prove it one way or the other. But if Twin isn’t included, these explanations are surely behind that. Again, this is the prediction I’m most likely to be wrong on, because there are some very good reasons for reprinting Twin on top of the reasons not to (lowers price for a tier 1 deck, introduces new players to a staple effect, etc.)
I’m sure there are cards I missed in all these sections people want to talk about, so take it to the comments and let’s see what the community is thinking. Overall, I’m getting excited for MM2 and the growth it will help bring to the format. We won’t all have Goyf playsets after the release event, but that won’t matter much to me if the product is a hit, the reprints are on target, and Goyf gets down to at least a more reasonable $100 or so.