With Double Masters 2022 coming around the bend, there’re a couple discussions about the set that are worth addressing. Is the set Commander Masters? Is the draft experience uninspired? And do either of these questions have merit?

Commander Masters?

I’ve seen a fair bit of discourse about how Double Masters 2 is in many ways a Commander Masters set. It’s an interesting point in light of the set immediately following on the heels of Commander Legends 2, an explicit Commander-focused draft set. However, there’s good reason behind this perspective: Commander Legends 2 was focused on new cards, while Masters sets are entirely comprised of reprints. Masters sets are always judged by the value of their reprints. Yes, the Limited environments matter, but sets like Iconic Masters and Masters 25 failed to justify their premium pack price point and temporarily killed the Masters product line. It appears that Double Masters 2 contains a wealth of value, much of it in Commander staples—something we’ve arguably never seen in a successful Masters set.

I’ll admit, it’s been a bit strange seeing Magic’s metamorphosis from the outside. As a Limited-focused player, I wasn’t especially affected by the demise of Standard at my local game stores (in the last decade, Standard was never that big near me). I read the articles about Magic’s growing audiences and its increased focus on Commander players and collectors, but the actual changes to my lived experience were minimal. Sure, we got more uncommon legendaries, some of which felt like overpowered rares that got downshifed (Syr Konrad, the Grim) and others which made their underpowered archetypes worse by being restricted to one in play a time (Vega, the Watcher). But for me, the game mostly stayed the same.

Except now, some of the most valuable chase cards are Dockside Extortionist, Kozilek, Butcher of Truth, and Imperial Seal, cards which only see play in Commander. Once upon a time, Masters chase cards were things like Tarmogoyf and Dark Confidant, but the ascendancy of Commander and the advent of even more powerful creatures and answers has relegated those once-proud Jund leaders to the outskirts of Modern.

Ultimately, it doesn’t matter to me whether the money cards are for Modern, Legacy, or Commander players. Sure, Dockside Extortionist is essentially useless in 1v1 Limited, but so were Chalice of the Void, Blood Moon, and Aether Vial in Modern Masters 2013. All Masters sets justify their premium prices through powerful and valuable rares, many of which are irrelevant in Limited. And frankly, Magic helps out more players by reprinting in-demand Commander staples than it does by reprinting in-demand Legacy cards. So, while it might feel weird for a Masters set to depend so heavily on Commander player (especially after the two underperformers, Iconic Masters and Masters 25 did exactly that), it’s not meaningfully different from how Masters sets have always operated.

Also, it’s absolutely disingenuous to treat the set as exclusively Commander-focused when the set also contains Wrenn and Six, Damnation, and Liliana, the Last Hope. So, here, I respectfully disagree with a fair bit of online discourse.

Now I am become old

I’ll admit, the Double Masters 2 kickoff stream did not wow me. As you may have surmised from the prior section, I’m rarely excited by splashy reprints. While I love foiling out my Cube and being able to play Modern, Pioneer, Commander, and even Legacy when the mood suits me, I am first and foremost a Limited player. To me, valuable reprints are prizes for playing Limited well, not motivators to buy and crack packs—the draft experience is what really counts.

And, well, the Limited format for Double Masters 2 looks very familiar. Four of the enemy wedge archetypes (Abzan, Jeskai, Sultai, and Temur) hew closely to the playstyles of the Khans of Tarkir clans for which they’re named. I’ve played Naya Heroic in both original Theros and Ultimate Masters, GW +1/+1 counters in Iconic Masters, and Aristocrats in Eternal Masters. I remember Modern Masters 2017, the first tricolor-focused Masters set, and there’re a lot of similarities. There doesn’t feel like a lot of novelty in the set, as I’ve seen so much of the first time it came around—and again when the archetypes were remixed in Masters or Horizons sets. Plus, it follows the first big tricolor Standard set in seven years, making its timing an especially odd choice.

Sadly, I don’t think the problem is with the set, but with me. When the first Modern Masters came out in 2013, I was so excited to draft Splice and Storm and Giants and Rebels—things I’d missed out on during my twelve year hiatus from Magic. I’ve now been playing consistently for the past twelve years, the exact length of my 1998-2010 hiatus, so I’ve been around long enough to see almost everything that Double Masters 2 calls back to. The generational lifecycles of games are far shorter than human generations, so I’m the Magic boomer this set is nostalgic for, rather than the Magic player who gets to live an experience I’ve missed. That doesn’t make the product any better or worse (playing with it will demonstrate how fun it is), but it does mean it’s unlikely to be a novel experience for me.

It’s not the most fun thing to feel old, but that’s an experience that any Magic player who’s been around for five or ten years is going to have, and I started playing in ’94. The game still has plenty of innovations every set, every year, it’s just less likely to surprise me with all-reprint products. Perhaps that’s why Masters sets went away, to be replaced by cheaper Horizons products that balance reprints and powerful new cards. And perhaps it means Masters sets are a little bit less for me than they used to be. All I know is, I’ll happily give it a try, and if it doesn’t work me, I’ll have Dominaria United in the fall (after a very long lull).

Zachary Barash is a New York City-based game designer and the last commissioner of Team Draft League. He designs for Kingdom Death: Monster, has a Game Design MFA from the NYU Game Center, and does freelance game design. When the stars align, he streams Magic (but the stars align way less often than he’d like).

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