I didn’t get to go to GP Vegas. I am okay with this! My Dana went, and from her telling the thing was a gigantic chaotic mess. Which is by no means the fault of the organizers, and I wouldn’t want to imply such a thing. Even the most well-oiled, practiced team is going to have a hard time fielding 4.5k people, and there was no practicing for this. I do, however, blame Wizards for the decisions they made leading up to this gigantic mess. Having finally gotten my own chance to draft Modern Masters, I am more convinced than ever that Wizards made a huge mistake in limiting the print run of a product that could have stood well on its own two feet.

Someone, I forget who, said recently that Modern Masters plays out like Pauper Cube with bombs. Having finally gotten a chance to play the format, I can’t say I disagree. There are a lot of combat shenanigans going on, and the backbones of most decks seem to be built on synergistic commons. This is awesome! It’s a hugely fun set to draft, and I imagine it’s even more so when you don’t have to worry about rare-drafters totally borking the signals.

That’s what happened in my pod. Unbeknownst to me, the player to my right was in UB Fae, but rare drafting meant he passed me some seriously solid fae cards, including multiple Pestermites (one foil!) and Dreamspoiler Witches. Meanwhile, the guy on my left was in the same UG fliers deck I was trying to force, but again signals got messed up when he started picking money cards over the suspend creatures that seem key to the archetype. The result of this, of course, was that I ended up in BUG fliers, with a decent number of faeries and other synergies. It was interesting to play with some of the downshifted rares; powerful recursive cards like Masked Admirers and Auntie’s Snitch were a lot less likely to end up in your deck in their original printings, and having abused them greatly I remember why. On at least one occasion I bashed in with a bunch of fliers and Masked Admirers. My opponent blocked and traded with the Admirers, while he got hit with a few faerie rogues in the air; I brought back Auntie’s Snitch, cast it for prowl and then paid the GG to bring back Masked Admirers as well. It was brutal, and a recurring source of card advantage for me.

BUG Skies

Creatures (17)
Errant Ephemeron
Giant Dustwasp
Latchkey Faerie
Auntie's Snitch
Faerie Macabre
Marsh Flitter
Dreamspoiler Witches
Masked Admirers
Warren Pilferers
Street Wraith

Spells (6)
Search for Tomorrow
Drag Down
Maelstrom Pulse
Incremental Growth
Tromp the Domains
Lands (17)
Vivid Creek
Vivid Marsh

Round one I played against the player to my right, the guy in UB Fae who spent some important picks on rares he didn’t end up playing. Not that I wouldn’t have jumped at the opportunity to pick up a Pact of Negation or a City of Brass… they would have just made it into my deck. I beat him soundly in two games. He flooded out game one, after I removed his main source of action with Drag Down (which over performed in my three-color deck). Game two was closer, but I managed to leverage the synergies and incremental advantages of my deck to get ahead on cards.

Round two I played Orlando, who you Hipster readers might know as the not-Giaco dude from our cards. He’s an awesome dude, and I was glad to have a chance to catch up with him. I was less glad when his Domain Giants deck beat me in three; I won game one with a back-breaking Tromp the Domains, but I mulled to five game two and didn’t draw lands fast enough to Tromp before his Thundercloud Shaman could come down. It wrathed my board, and helped him mop up. Game three I threw away while on tilt… I was on the play, and super frustrated by the previous mull to five, so after a no-land hand I kept the following six on tilt: Giant Dustwasp, Giant Dustwasp, Giant Dustwasp, Maelstrom Pulse, Pestermite, Forest. It was loose, but I still think it had the potential to get there. Unfortunately it didn’t live up to that potential, but hey! Story of my life.

Round three I played against the dude who put Orlando into giants, as he took a Lightning Helix over a Thundercloud Shaman for his pack one, pick one. Orlando and I weren’t sure how right that was, since the Shaman is one of the only sweepers in the format, but either way he had an aggressive, low curve deck. Unfortunately for him, my deck was basically the best one in the room against his swarm strategy… Game one he went all in on Goblin tokens before I had the Maelstrom Pulse to kill them all in one shot, and game two he couldn’t outrace my team of fliers. He was a super nice dude, though, and I think, had I not been so tired out by that point, we could have had an interesting game three for fun.

So, Modern Masters is fun! It’s unsurprising, though. The set has a lot of different tribal strategies, has a draftable combo deck, which is rare in limited formats (one of the things that made ISD draft so awesome was the Spider Spawning deck), and contains a lot of the most fun cards in the entire Modern format. Which again, makes me wonder why Wizards made the decision to limit it to such a degree that a) you can’t draft it on demand, b) you can’t buy the boxes anywhere at suggested retail, and c) it has had a minor effect at deflating the prices of these cards on the secondary market.

Now, many people (even on this site) have taken the view that Wizards is protecting the buy in of the people who play the game by making sure their cards don’t suddenly plummet in value. I think this speaks to one of the biggest issues facing Magic at the moment, a true crisis of values that afflicts our community. See, this is greed talking. Magic cards shouldn’t be an investment instrument, and Hasbro shouldn’t be trying to squeeze the maximum profit margin from every Magic product on the market (like, by firing the creative director, or making sets like Modern Masters have severely restricted releases, or by having there only be one Modern Masters GP despite clear interest in the format). Greed is not good!

Hasbro wants Wizards to be like Apple: high profit margin items with restricted availability to drive up demand to insane levels. This is a strategy! I just don’t think it’s the right strategy for a game like this. I think, instead, Wizards should adopt the Amazon model: slim profit margins, but a dramatically expanded market share. It’s how you make the community more open and welcoming of people who have been traditionally excluded by the alpha-nerd male faction: by making the barriers lower for new people to jump into any format. In many ways Standard is the least welcoming format; instead of taking the opportunity to make Modern have an accessible entry point so that new people who might like constructed but who are put off by standard have a reason to keep playing the game.

But of course, the alpha nerds win again. Magic as mystery cult gets to continue, and GP Vegas gets to be another arbiter of whether or not a person has been tuned into the game for long enough to be cool. “I was playing during Weatherlight!” “Well, I went to GP Vegas, so there!” Ugh. Can you imagine?

I’m going to leave you with an idea I had, based off the “Pauper Cube with Bombs” theory of Modern Masters. It seems to me that a box of Modern Masters could be a decent way to make a quick and dirty “cube” environment. Buy the box, strip the packs, sleeve them, and then draft it out. Then, at the end, take back all the cards, separate them out into common, uncommon, rare/mythic, and foil… and then you’re free to repack them at random and do it again. It’s not a traditional cube, but for $250 plus the price of sleeves it seems like it could be a great way to keep this super-cool but restricted format alive for longer than Wizards planned. Plus, I can only imagine that Modern Masters gets a lot better to draft when there’s no benefit to taking a useless $100+ card over something that might prove integral to your deck.

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