This week Wizards revealed the contents of the upcoming Jace vs Vraska boxed set. Among the juicy details were several reprints, some cards with new art, and the complete decks that players can look forward to slinging come March 14th. The most exciting and highly anticipated part of the announcement was the inclusion of Remand in the Jace side of the package. What does the return of another Modern staple to the printers mean for the community?

Jace vs Vraska

MSRP $19.99 While Supplies Last

MSRP $19.99 While Supplies Last

Boxed sets are one of the most important products that Wizards creates, second only to the main expansion sets that get printed quarterly. You see, the box set, like this one, have very wide appeal to all reaches of Magic’s community. There’s something for everyone here whether you’re the most casual of casual kitchen-table spellslingers or the most grinding grinder on the tournament circuit. It’s almost as if Wizards works off of a checklist when they assemble these:

  • Casual appeal? Check.
  • Flavorful design? Check.
  • Collectible foils? Check.
  • Reprinted tournament staple? Check and mate.

The first three items on this list, to be fair, are pretty straight-forward. The casual appeal comes from a few simple facts. First, people like to play Magic. Second, people like playing games where everything is in a nice packaged box for them. There are no boosters here, just the two decks that come ready to play. Third, people like the perception of an even match. It doesn’t make sense for these decks to not be evenly matched, unlike that time your buddy brought his Legacy deck and thought it’d be “fun” to test it against your Modern deck.

Flavorful design is also a given, more or less. The stories practically write themselves. Sure, Jace and Vraska don’t have a complex history but why not? We can write one pretty simply. Next it’s time to spruce things up with some collectibles. This comes in two varieties. First, you’ve got your marquee cards all foiled for our pleasure. In this case it’s two planeswalkers, already a collectible item, improved upon even further. Next, you throw in new artwork on a few cards and now collectors want to add them to their mantle.

Welcome back.

Welcome back.

The real meat and potatoes is the cards that find their way into these sets. Two sixty-card decks give the designers a lot of space to work with, but for the most part a lot of these cards are middling-to-low on the power-level scale. That final point on the checklist though, that’s where the hype comes from. The question on most people’s mind is, “Which constructed staples can I acquire from this set, to make my other decks better?”

Jace vs Vraska has no shortage of these cards, and it could result in this box set being highly valued. Here’s a quick run-down of the sweet reprints:

The combined cost of acquiring those cards is just north of $20 according to But the MSRP of this box is only $19.99, and it includes 112 other cards including two foil planeswalkers! What gives?

The simplest explanation is often correct, and in this case the simple explanation is that Wizards is unhappy with the cost of Modern-playable cards on the secondary market. This is less of a theory these days and more of an undeniable fact. Ever since the announcement of the Modern format, it’s been apparent that card values were going to be an issue. The value of cards like Scalding Tarn, Dark Confidant, Tarmogoyf, and now Bitterblossom, is astounding compared to where they were prior to the creation of Modern. This is not what Wizards wants for its game.

The solution is both straight-forward and complicated at the same time. The value of the cards is driven by supply and demand. The demand for Modern goes up constantly. This is good. This is what Wizards wants to see. This is what we should all want to see. However, by definition, the supply of cards is fixed. Wizards only prints cards for a small period of time, while that expansion is being played, and then they’re gone.

The only tool Wizards has to fix this is reprinting cards, but they have to be careful. A lot of players and collectors take pride in having built up their collections, acquiring hard-to-find pieces, and putting together their favorite decks. They also spent a lot of money to do so. Flood the market with reprints of all those cards and people are going to feel cheated. Their collections will have their value lessened. This is not good and no one should want this.

Over the past few years we’ve seen Wizards take a few different approaches to reprints. First, we’ve seen box sets like Jace vs Vraska as a vehicle for re-introducing cards into the market. This works very well because only a small number of cards get reprinted, and Wizards controls the print-run and to an extent, the distribution. Commander, Planechase, and From the Vault are also ways in which they can accomplish the same goal.

Reprint city

Reprint city

Second, we have a unique entity which is expansion sets that look and feel like a normal expansion but are not part of the quarterly release cycle. This includes Modern Masters and the upcoming Conspiracy set. This allows Wizards to print a much larger array of cards that they want to increase the supply of. The market gets flooded with these cards but the consumers don’t feel cheated because they get to play a new set. Modern Masters drafting was a treat, and to an extent made people feel a little better about all their Kitchen Finks and Path to Exiles plummeting in value. In the end, I think this approach worked far better than anyone expected it to.

Next, we have the very simple solution of reprinting cards in a Standard-legal set. This has been successfully achieved with shock-lands, Mutavault, and Thoughtseize. It’s a tough choice to make though, because it saturates the market with the new card, causing it’s value to plummet. Thoughtseize has lost 50% of its value since being reprinted, for example. But, these cards are staples, especially in the case of shock-lands, and the collectors understand that. Wizards usually appeases them with new artwork, giving the originals a special quality that helps hold up their value.

Finally, and perhaps most interestingly, will be the Modern Event Deck, due out at the end of May. Speculation on this has run rampant and its contents should give us an idea of the direction Wizards plans on moving in. Will they continue with controlled experiments in reprinting cards, or will they release the floodgates? In a few months we’ll know the answer to that, but for now, we should be thrilled that Remand is back in circulation.

Pro Tour Update

Top 25 Shake-Up

Let's do this again in about three months, yes?

Let’s do this again in about three months, yes?

Pro Tour Born of the Gods completely shook up the Top 25 rankings, as shown above. The biggest swing on the board was Owen Turtenwald’s nine-place jump from 12th to 3rd in the world. Seven players dropped off the list completely, including PT Hall of Fame inductees Raphael Levy and Brian Kibler. This means seven new players joined the ranks, mostly on the backs of strong performances in Valencia.

This never should have happened this way. A single tournament should not have the ability to so thoroughly shake the foundation of the player rankings. Grand Prix events don’t have this kind of impact and it should be obvious now that these Top 25 rankings are less of a reflection of who the best players in the world are, and more of a reflection of who the best players at the last four Pro Tours are. Are the two concepts equivalent? I don’t think they are. We’ll see what happens at Pro Tour Magic 2015, but I expect a similar shake-up.

Grand Prix Melbourne

Congratulations to Nam Sung-Wook, GP Melbourne Champion

Congratulations to Nam Sung-Wook, GP Melbourne Champion

Just over 900 players sleeved up Standard decks in Melbourne for Australia’s first Grand Prix since an early 2013 event in Sydney. It was the first Grand Prix in Melbourne since 2012. This would mark the largest Grand Prix in Australian history. Ben Stark, who recently dropped from #1 in the world to #2, showed up to try to close the gap between him and Jeremy Dezani, the new top-ranked player in the world. Unfortunately, Stark fell short failing to make the cut to day two.

128 players moved on to day two, including a large number of players with only six match wins. At the top of the spectrum were three players who went undefeated. James Fazzolari and Yifan Wei both finished day one sitting at 9-0 with 27 points. Nam Sung-Wook finished at 8-0-1 with 25 points. Fazzolari ended up going 2-4 on day two, finishing in 23rd place. Nam Sung-Wook and Yifan Wei would both go on to play in the top 8.

The top 8 featured 1 Jund, 3 Esper Control, 1 Mono-Blue Devotion, 1 Mono-Black Mid-Range, 1 Orzhov Mid-Range, and 1 Gruul Aggro deck. Other than the three almost-identical copies of Esper decks, that is a very diverse set of final tables. In the upper-bracket, top-seeded Yifan Wei, an Australian Student, took his Esper deck to the semifinals for a mirror match against fellow Australian Student Patty Robertson. Robertson won the mirror and moved on to the finals against Nam Sung-Wook and his Mono-Black Mid-Range deck.

Feel free to check out the coverage of the finals from the official page. Congratulations to Nam Sung-Wook, GP Melbourne Champion, and the first ever South Korean GP Champ!

Grand Prix Barcelona

Congrats to the German team of Christian Seibold, Tobias Grafensteiner, and Daniel Grafensteiner, your Grand Prix Barcelona Champions!

Congrats to the German team of Christian Seibold, Tobias Grafensteiner, and Daniel Grafensteiner, your Grand Prix Barcelona Champions!

Grand Prix Barcelona was meant to be a massive event. Hot off the heels of Pro Tour Born of the Gods, held in Valencia, the trip to Barcelona would only be three hours by train. Unsurprisingly, a large number of highly ranked pro players were in attendance for the team limited event, a nice refresher after the grind of a Modern Pro Tour.

At the top after 14 rounds of swiss was the Channel Fireball team of Owen Turtenwald, Huey Jensen, and Reid Duke. A lot of other top-talent teams made impressive finishes. Raphael Levy, Melissa DeTora, and top-ranked Jeremy Dezani finished seventh overall. Another CFB team, consisting of Martin Juza, PVDDR, and Shuhei Nakamura, finished in 13th place.

542 teams began the quest for glory in Barcelona. Only 42 of them made the cut to the second day of competition. Five rounds later the final four was decided. The final tables featured two German teams, one Swiss team, and the aforementioned American team of Turtenwald/Jensen/Duke.

You can scope out the decks drafted from the official coverage here. The first match of the semifinals pitted the Americans against the Swiss. Although heavily favored, the Americans were unable to make it to the finals, losing their match 2-1. Meanwhile, the German teams went head-to-head, with the team of Seibold/Grafensteiner/Grafensteiner emerging victorious.

The decklists from the final draft can be found here. In the end the Germans powered over the Swiss, winning the first game in all three of their matches, allowing them to quickly end things with only two more game wins in the second game. Congratulations to Christian Seibold, Tobias Grafensteiner, and Daniel Grafensteiner!

The Quick Hits

  • Heather Lafferty shines the spotlight on the Twitter-verse’s commentary on PT Born of the Gods [The Spotlight]
  • MJ Scott discusses the challenges of being a member of the elusive Spike-Vorthos demographic [Gathering Magic]
  • Mike Linnemann helps you build the perfect Magic-cave, which is where you keep your Cave People [Gathering Magic]
  • Mashi Scanlan and Luis Scott-Vargas rank the top 8 sorceries of all time [Magic TV]
  • Evan Erwin reviews the possibilities stemming from the announcement of the Magic movie [The Magic Show]
  • Terese Nielsen will be the Artist Guest of Honor at Gen Con this year. She drew Force of Will. Maybe you heard of it [Gen Con]

Wallpaper of the Week

Does the artwork for every card in this set have stars in it?

The commission for this artwork was something like: “Anax fights Rageblood, and throw some stars in it somewhere.”

Action! Excitement! Adventure! Finally, after weeks of deity portraits we finally get something worth looking at! This isn’t even card art, which is also exciting! It’s a depiction from a scene in the upcoming novel Godsend by Jenna Helland, which will give us a look into Theros. This piece shows Anax, from Theros’s premiere hipster rock duo Anax and Cymede, battling it out with a Rageblood Shaman in what looks like a duel to the death.
The best part is that it doesn’t even look half-bad on my desktop. It’s too bad about those stars though.

Grade: B+

The Week Ahead

Next weekend, StarCity Games is proud to present Grand Prix Richmond! This will be a Modern event, the first one in the wake of Pro Tour Born of the Gods, and promises to be special. SCG likes to go all out when they throw major events so I expect no less this time around. This GP promises to be huge. Don’t miss it.

What We Learned is a weekly feature here at Hipsters of the Coast written by former amateur Magic Player Rich Stein, who came really close to making day two of a Grand Prix on several occasions. Each week we will take a look at the past seven days of major events, big news items, and community happenings so that you can keep up-to-date on all the latest and greatest Magic: the Gathering community news.

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