Commander Masters brings with it a horde of much-needed reprints to Magic: The Gathering’s most popular format, as well as some incredibly interesting new cards via its actual Commander decks.
In an ideal world, we’d be talking about how great it is to see Wizards of the Coast printing more copies of essential Commander cards like Smothering Tithe, Doubling Season and Jeweled Lotus to reduce the price of these bits of cardboard. This isn’t an ideal world, though, so it’s very hard to focus on the positives of this latest MTG set when they’re accompanied by major caveats.
The card selection in the set is generally pretty strong. There are a lot of reprints that the Commander format desperately needs, like The Ur-Dragon and Yuriko, the Tiger’s Shadow, as certain decks spiral into being completely unaffordable if you want to fully optimise them. It’s also positive for Commander as a casual format, as for many people it’s a casual multiplayer format - being able to get official cards at a reasonable price gives players a chance to support their local game stores and the game they love.
Commander Masters is also the first Masters set that comes with its own Commander decks, each of which include some brand new cards. New cards in Commander are a good thing because they open up new potential decks or strengthen existing ones. Take one of the best cards in Commander Masters, Ugin’s Mastery, which bolsters the facedown archetype - something that hasn’t had an upgrade in several years at this point. As a result, it’s easy to be excited about new cards, as well as the price drops that will occur on the reprints.
The new side-profile artwork of cards like Mikaeus, the Unhallowed - a six-mana Black 5/5 zombie that not only destroys any human that deals damage to you, but also makes it so that any non-human creatures you control come back to life with a +1/+1 counter on them when they die - are excellent. These are borderline classic cards, and when they get new treatments it’s a nice chance for MTG fans to grab special versions of them and spice up their decks.
It’s very hard to focus on the positives of this latest MTG set when they’re accompanied by major caveats.
We’re not inherently against loads of art styles - it’s often just that Wizards has a tendency to overdo it and make the game way too complicated by introducing too many at once. That’s not as much of an issue in Commander where tournaments aren’t as common, but is a big problem in Standard or Modern where card recognition is integral to the format.
While we’d just love to talk about all of these positive things in Commander Masters, it’d be incredibly unethical of us to do so because the price point on this set and its new decks is simply untenable.
Because Wizards of the Coast refuses to set an official MSRP for any of its products, we’ve got no way of knowing what the intended price of the Commander decks are. What we do know is that a normal Commander deck will usually set you back around $40. Both the Sliver Swarm and Eldrazi Unbound decks for Commander Masters are currently retailing for between $110 and $135 depending on where you look - which you’ll notice is up to over triple the normal price.
There’s nothing truly spectacular about these decks that makes them deserving of that amount of money. We’d urge you not to spend your money on them, because you’d be getting ripped off. If each deck included a couple of shock lands or fetch lands maybe they’d be worthy of the hefty investment, but they don’t. They’re just normal Commander decks with a theoretically higher value due to being in the Commander Masters set, but this doesn’t really come through in the decks themselves.
Masters sets are viewed and priced as being premium products. They’re something for those with more disposable income to invest in, and the card quality is meant to be substantially higher than in a normal set. However, given that these cards likely cost at most a negligible amount more money to manufacture, and are cheaper to design because they’re mostly reprints, they’re really not deserving of a higher price outside of the fact that those of us who play the game are more likely to want the cards inside. That’s a weird one in and of itself, as Wizards isn’t meant to be interested in the secondary market, but pricing this set so highly suggests that it must be paying attention.
Here we have a set that is incredible in terms of card selection, artwork and new cards, but it’s not one that anyone should recommend because the cost of it is so incredibly high.
A booster box of Commander Masters is likely to set you back around $340 at the time of writing. That’s genuinely kind of sickening. Sure, you can draft if you want, but a draft generally costs as much as four packs - three for drafting and one for the prize pool - meaning a draft of Commander Masters will set you back around $50 each time. We’re not going to try and price your enjoyment at all, but we’re not sure it’s possible to get $50 worth of fun from a draft, even if it’s spectacular. You could open an expensive mythic rare or rare and essentially make your money back, but that’s never something you should be aiming for when spending your money on Magic.
It’s just sort of depressing. Here we have a set that is incredible in terms of card selection, artwork and new cards that either upgrade or change existing strategies, thanks to the decks. However, it’s not one that anyone should recommend - and we certainly don’t - because the cost of it is so incredibly high. Commander Masters is a set that’s just another blow to anyone worrying about the cost of MTG, and whether or not it’s for them anymore.
It’s a set that proves that Wizards desperately needs to announce an actual price for the products it’s putting out, because the variables are too wild otherwise. It’s also a set that once again shows that Wizards must be playing the secondary market to determine what is or isn’t worthy of being in these sets, and how they should be priced.
It’s exhausting to be a Magic: The Gathering fan sometimes, and Commander Masters is the height of that exhaustion.