Ninja Edit: Please read the rest of this article, which I swear I wrote over the weekend with zero fore-knowledge that Damnation was being reprinted.

What follows is the full article written and published before the news of Damnation’s reprinting being brought to our attention. Enjoy!

Is that not the most click-bait title for an article ever? I mean, let’s be real, how many people do you think are going to be searching on Google this week for “is Damnation in modern masters 2017?” Pretty much everyone. That could very well be how you got here. The rest of this article could just be gifs of my favorite actors and I’d still rack up the views.

But that’s not what we’re going to do for two reasons. First, I like to pretend I’m a legitimate journalist covering, for some masochistic reason, the Magic: the Gathering community. Second, I don’t get paid based on how many people click on my headlines, which is a shame, because I come up with great click-bait headlines (see above).

By now, Modern Masters 2017 previews are in full swing. We might even know if Damnation is in there. We might not. I have a feeling Wizards will lead with Snapcaster Mage (assuming it’s in there, which I don’t know yet). But how much does it really matter at this point? Does Modern Masters even matter anymore?

When the first Modern Masters set came out, way back in the summer of 2013, it was still a bright and sunny time for Modern as a format. Second Sunrise had just been banned, back when cards being banned made people happy. Earlier in the year Shaun McLaren made waves when he won Pro Tour Born of the Gods with a Jeskai control deck (before it was called Jeskai) that featured the aforementioned Snapcaster Mage. Things were good.

Modern Masters was hailed as a savior for the format. Card availability was a growing concern, especially among people who were wary that Modern’s price tag would slowly creep towards Legacy’s price tag if cards weren’t reprinted. Even though the packs cost way more than the usual pack of cards, the contents were potentially worth the investment. Tarmogoyf, Dark Confidant, Blood Moon, and Doubling Season were among the countless reprints that helped improve card availability and bring more people into Modern.

Things would soon turn for the worse for the format though. The following three winters saw the banning of Deathrite Shaman, Birthing Pod, and Splinter Twin respectively. Then came the debacle of Pro Tour Oath of the Gatewatch which featured six Eldrazi decks fueled by Eye of Ugin, which was promptly banned last spring. The final stroke of bad news for the Modern community was the announcement that Modern would no longer be featured on the Pro Tour.

So perhaps the question shouldn’t be, “is Damnation going to be reprinted in Modern Masters 2017?” but rather, “is there going to even be a Modern Masters 2019?” The format seems to be in shambles. Wizards canceled the Modern Pro Tour. They changed the World Magic Cup and qualifier formats from Modern to Standard. They made the new Grand Prix PTQ events exclusively sealed deck or Standard. So I suppose that’s it, right? Modern had a good run, but is it time to pack it up?

Not so fast actually. There’s a difference between Wizards of the Coast dropping support for a format from the Pro Tour, and dropping support for a format in their printing schedule. Let’s consider the products announced alongside Amonkhet all the way back in August last year:

  • Modern Masters 2017 Edition (March 2017)
  • Duel Decks: Mind vs. Might (March 2017)
  • Archenemy: Nicol Bolas (June 2017)
  • Commander Anthology (June 2017)

So which of these products do you think, besides the obvious one at the top of the list, is going to be full of Modern reprints? Maybe even Damnation? Commander Anthology isn’t quite going to make the mark, as that’s mostly full of Legacy reprints. But Archenemy and the new Duel Decks could certainly include a few playable Modern commons and uncommons that kitchen-table players will surely get use of.

But probably not Damnation. Why not? Reprinting cards is tough, and we’ve seen the secondary market value of boxed sets skyrocket because of a few chase cards. So we’re left relying on draftable products like Modern Masters and Conspiracy to be the vessel for those sorts of reprints.

It’s been four years since Modern Masters premiered, which means Wizards had about three years to process the feedback from Modern Masters and then a year to process the feedback from Modern Masters 2015 before beginning the design of Modern Masters 2017. In that time one would imagine Wizards has learned a lot about reprint sets and about Modern as a format.

As previews roll out this week I think we’ll all learn a lot about just how much Wizards plans on supporting Modern going forwards. The biggest hurdle into the format has always been the cost to play. Competitive scenes always drive up the price of cards. Legacy and Vintage, believe it or not, were incredibly affordable before Star City Games came along and promoted major events with big prize pools for both formats. So in a way, cutting Modern from the competitive scene almost certainly makes the format more accessible, not less.

Competition is only one way in which card prices become prohibitively high. The other is simply due to a lack of availability of cards printed a decade ago, like Damnation. Alright, it doesn’t have to be actual Damnation since that card would greatly warp the limited environment, but I think there’s an expectation that the card pool will be stronger than Modern Masters 2013 and 2015.

Last but not least, let’s talk about print run. Wizards controls the absolute number of copies of a card put into the hands of the public and in the past Modern Masters has had a very small print run. If Wizards wants to show that they support the format and want people to play it, they’ll do it by making the format more accessible through a wider variety of reprints and a larger print run.

Modern isn’t dead so long as people play it. Whether it’s at the kitchen table or a PPTQ, Wizards knows the game has many, many fans. Support for the game isn’t about appearing on the Pro Tour. It will always be about Wizards improving the access to the card pool. Thanks to the official reprint policy, this is a luxury Wizards can’t take with Vintage and Legacy (on paper) but they can absolutely do something about Modern’s accessibility problems.

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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