It’s happened. Expeditions are now a permanent fixture of Magic, in the new Masterpiece Series. Going forward, every set will have a collection of super-premium, super-mythic reprints. So, what does this mean? How does this change how we’ll interact with Magic?



This is amazing news! Sure, only a tiny percentage of players will ever open a Masterpiece (the odds of opening a Kaladesh Invention are 1 in 144 booster packs, or 1 in 4 booster boxes). However, they affect everyone, since everyone now shares in that small, but not insignificant possibility of cracking one, a kind of excitement we already know full well from mythic rares.

I’d be shocked if Expeditions didn’t and Masterpieces don’t have a strong positive effect on booster sales—they raise the ceiling on cracking a booster pack (an almost-always negative Expected Value proposition) through the roof. They give people more to hope for out of their booster packs. They create more opportunities for exciting and unique experiences at prereleases, drafts, tournaments, and kitchen tables across the world. They create far more opportunities for positive social media. All of these are good for Magic, both for its reputation and its business model.



Just look at them. They’re absolutely stunning. Their treatment is a fantastic use of the card frame. I absolutely love playing with card borders, and that metal border is wonderful. It’s also perfectly fitting for Kaladesh—why wouldn’t the plane of inventors, in the midst of their Inventors’ Fair, not have some of the greatest inventions in all of Magic? Why not recontextualize some of Magic’s most notable artifacts to fit into a brand new world? Why not make Cloudstone Curio be actually made out of clouds? Why not have a beautifully ornamental, obviously deadly-sharp Sword of Feast and Famine? Why not give Sol Ring a tiny and beautiful new story? As a Melvin and a Vorthos, I love them.



Reprints are a good thing. Reprints help keep prices down, even in small numbers (the good majority of the time). Even though Masterpieces will be extremely rare, they only add to the total number of Magic cards in existence. Plus, they set a precedent that anything not on the Reserved List is fair game for reprinting at any time, no matter the context. This means that cards too powerful for Standard can nevertheless be reprinted in Standard sets. That kind of uncertainty should hopefully help slowly deflate the cost of nonrotating formats.



An unexpected consequence of Expeditions (and presumably of Masterpieces going forward) is the deflation of the price of Standard. According to Rosewater in his announcement of Masterpieces:

Zendikar Expeditions drove more players into the Battle for Zendikar block, which resulted in greater accessibility for all the non-Expeditions cards. Zendikar Expeditions actually made it easier to play Standard.

On the face of it, this isn’t so surprising. If more people draft or crack boosters, then the supply of Standard cards increases. This increased supply should decrease the cost of Standard. (If demand is fixed and supply increases, prices go down.) However, this model presupposes an unchanging player base. If the increase in pack-cracking were counterbalanced by an equivalent increase in Standard participation, then price of Standard shouldn’t change (since both supply and demand have increased at the same rate). This hasn’t happened (since the cost of a Standard deck has decreased). This suggests one of two possibilities:

  1. The Standard player base is increasing, but not as fast as the increase in Limited and pack-cracking participation.
  2. The Standard player base is about the same size; people are just spending more money on booster packs.

If true, the first option means that Magic has found a new means to grow its player base. According to this theory, Masterpieces generate more excitement and direct participation for pack-crackers than Standard players, but everyone wins, since Constructed becomes cheaper on the back of increased Limited participation. This is a great win-win situation where Wizards of the Coast simply found an underutilized method of generating excitement and engagement.

The second option is more pernicious. If Magic’s player base is relatively flat, then players are simply spending more money on Magic. While this is good in the short term, I worry for the long-term health of the game if Magic’s new business model is to wring more cash from its customers. I’m skeptical that this is the case, since Magic has been growing for years, and Wizards likely knows full well how many game companies have failed by shifting to a parasitic business model.



The context I’m most worried about Masterpieces is Limited, specifically competitive Limited events. Let’s set aside the shenanigans of things like Pascal Maynard drafting a foil Tarmogoyf; Magic has cards valuable enough that one can conceivably rare-draft them even when a major tournament is on the line. The majority of Kaladesh Inventions are perfectly fine for Limited. They’re generally weird rares, fine cards, or bombs. Sure, they’ll lead to some ridiculous Sealed pools when you open a Verdurous Gearhulk Invention and another Gearhulk, but how is that any different than just opening up a foil Verdurous Gearhulk?

No, my concern is with a small, but completely different class of cards: those far too powerful to ever be printed in Limited. Verdurous Gearhulk is a busted card in the context of Limited, but Sol Ring is a completely broken card in the context of any format ever. There’s a difference between someone going 9-0 on a Grand Prix because they opened Archangel Avacyn and Gisela, the Broken Blade and someone going 9-0 because they had turn one Sol Ring ten times. I don’t think it’ll make for a good narrative when someone wins a Grand Prix off the back of Mana Vault; sure, there’s the story of someone getting incredibly lucky, but you’re still telling the story of someone beating a Kaladesh draft deck with a Vintage Cube deck.

I love that valuable and powerful cards are getting reprinted, but I’m not at all excited to see cards like Sword of Fire and Ice at my next PPTQ. Even if artifact hate is plentiful, cards like the Swords need to be answered or they dominate games, and cards like Sol Ring are so incredibly powerful that they elevate their pilot’s deck to a different era of Magic. Now, contrast these Inventions with all of the Zendikar Expeditions: most of them had minor effects on the game, with the strongest Limited Expedition being Ancient Tomb (an insanely powerful card, but nothing compared to Sol Ring). Going forward, I hope that Masterpieces find the right balance between exciting, valuable, and reasonable for Limited.


That’s all for today. I’m thoroughly excited for Masterpieces and what they mean for Magic going forward. While I’m hesitant about their impact in Limited (they’re rare, but at a 2,000 person Grand Prix, about eighty three Masterpieces should be opened on Day 1),* I’m nevertheless excited to always have the possibility of cracking something truly rare in every booster pack going forward. Here’s hoping a whole slew of you are fortunate enough to crack your own golden tickets at prerelease, which is only a scant week and a half away!

And, as always, thanks for reading.

*If a Kaladesh Invention is in 1 in 144 booster packs, we divide that by six to get 1 in 24 sealed pools. If 2,000 players show up, that’s 2,000 sealed pools. 2000 divided by 24 is 83 and a third.

—Zachary Barash

Zachary Barash is a New York City-based game designer. He’s played Magic since 1994, he loves Limited and drafts every available format (including several that aren’t entirely meant to be drafted). He loves Ulvenwald Mysteries, as it’s both a strong Limited card and tells a fantastic story entirely through its mechanics.

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