Magic: The Gathering’s Double Masters set has an unrivalled card selection - at an eye-watering cost
Reprints and rares both essential and exorbitant.
Double Masters is the latest in a long line of Magic: The Gathering sets bearing the Masters moniker. Generally speaking, these sets have always been a way for Wizards of the Coast to reprint essential cards for non-Standard formats. They’re a treasure trove of cards that see play - or they’re meant to be, anyway - and generally help bring down the rather extortionate cost of playing MTG.
Double Masters is a bit different to the other sets in its lineage. For starters, it has two rares or mythic rares in each booster instead of the one you would normally find in a pack. That alone changes how much value you can potentially get from a booster pack, let alone a booster box. However, the set is at odds with itself when it comes to the gameplay experience, card selection, and the cost.
It might seem odd to take all of these things as being separate, but there’s a rather large discrepancy when it comes to the quality of the set itself, how much fun it is and whether or not it’s worth the amount of money that’s being asked. That gets even more complex when you consider the VIP boosters which are fancy but, oh boy, are they willing to ask you to remortgage your house to buy some.
The number of excellent reprints in Double Masters is completely unheard of. We’ve got essential multi-format stars such as Jace, the Mind Sculptor; Modern superstars like Dark Confidant; Legacy essentials including Force of Will; and even a never-ending supply of great Commander cards such as Land Tax and Avenger of Zendikar.
Overall, Double Masters is probably one of the best MTG sets we’ve ever had for reprints.
Not every card in the set is the same level of essential but, overall, it’s probably one of the best MTG sets we’ve ever had for reprints. The effects of this on the secondary market - where the vast majority of players get their cards because you can just buy the singles you want instead of ravenously opening boosters and hoping for the best - is extraordinary.
Many of the reprints in Double Masters have caused cards to halve in price due to their wider availability. This makes a lot of Modern decks more affordable than ever before. That means that now is an excellent time to buy into Modern on the tabletop, despite the fact that we’re nowhere near seeing paper tournaments returning anytime soon due to the current pandemic.
This is very much where Double Masters is strongest. It combines an almost unrivalled amount of essential cards; you’re likely to pick up a key piece or two for one of multiple formats from the vast majority of booster packs that you open.
That said, it is incredibly unfortunate that they’re still missing one of the most integral parts of any MTG deck: fetch lands. Fetch lands are probably the most important cards in MTG at this point; each one allows you to play with a more diverse mana base, and that, in turn, allows for more consistency, a wider breadth of decks on the whole and a more exciting game. The absence of recent fetch land reprints is something that a lot of the MTG community has been clamouring after for a long time. This is the only real complaint on the reprint front and, while it’s not indicative of a failing on the part of this particular set, it's something that Wizards of the Coast hopefully addresses soon.
Let's move onto how the set plays in a Draft. Due to the unique nature of, well, the world right now, this is all based on online play, but it should all apply to paper drafts too - whenever they return.
The chance to Draft is relatively small, but it’s one that means you never feel like you’re making an impossible decision when you open up a pack.
When drafting Double Masters, you get to pick two cards when you’re doing the first pick of a pack. This means when you open up a booster pack, you can choose two cards instead of one, but only if you’ve just opened up the pack. This changes a lot of how drafting feels, because it allows you to cement a specific strategy a little bit earlier on, or just take the two best cards in your first pack and figure it out from there.
There’s a reason for the change, and it’s due to the double rare or mythic rare in each booster. It means that you can take the two high-rarity cards if you want to, which could potentially allow you to keep the majority of the value in a pack, assuming you get really lucky.
As a result of this, the Draft format is a bit different from the norm, because the process of drafting is different. It could be that this is an experiment to see whether or not drafting can be messed around with.
The good news is that it makes the format feel quite exciting. It’s a relatively small change, but it’s one that means you never feel like you’re making an impossible decision when you open up a pack. On top of that, the set is filled with familiar faces for those who’ve been playing a long time, and you end up with some great archetypes to play around with.
That’s all the good stuff out of the way. Now, onto the bad: the price.
A single pack of Double Masters will set you back around three times as much as a normal booster.
A single pack of Double Masters will set you back around £12. That’s three times as much as a normal booster. Sure, it comes with an extra rare or mythic, as well as some incredibly valuable cards (potentially), but that’s still a lot of money. A full booster box, which has 24 packs plus a box topper - which can itself be good or bad, depending on your luck - will cost you around £260.
While many MTG players may be older and have a little more disposable income than the 13-plus age rating of the game, that doesn’t mean it’s okay to completely price out the teenagers hoping to play more of their favourite game. To be honest, it’s just a little abhorrent.
You could argue that the inflated price is due to the extra rare cards or the wonderful reprints, but that doesn’t affect anything on Wizards of the Coast’s end. The secondary market for single cards doesn’t impact the publisher at all; it makes no money from it, other than the ability to massively ramp up the cost of sets like these. It would still be making absurd money from this set if it was the same price as a normal set. It feels dirty - and it gets worse.
Let’s talk about the Double Masters VIP Edition. This is a product that costs around £100 on its own. It has 33 cards, the majority of which are foil, and 12 full-art basic lands. That’s nice and all, but it’s still £100 for a single pack. Collectors might like owning shiny things, and selling said shiny things is a great way to make money, but good lord does it make Wizards of the Coast seem a little money-hungry.
As long as you ignore the cost, Double Masters is an excellent set. Possibly the best Masters set there has ever been, in fact. It’s full of essential reprints that are already helping to make MTG more affordable in older formats. That’s the kind of thing that a set like this should be doing, and it absolutely nails it in that respect.
As long as you ignore the cost, Double Masters is an excellent set.
On top of that, it doesn’t just cater to one format. Nearly everyone has a little something here to enjoy, and it helps to encourage people to get into other formats - which helps those formats stay alive, which adds new players, which makes them more fun. All good stuff so far.
Double Masters also has one of the most exciting draft environments. There are plenty of powerful cards to build around, a lot of entertaining archetypes to dive into and it’ll put a smile on nearly every MTG player’s face thanks to the excellent card selection.
It’s just a shame that the thing costs so much. Wizards of the Coast would sell a lot more of this if it lowered the price, and it might do that if it felt like trashing the value of the average MTG player’s collection. A lot of people feel like the money they’ve invested in MTG so far should be respected, but prices like this - despite helping to reduce the cost of the cards in the secondhand market - feel almost elitist when they cost so much. There’s a lot of arguments about whether or not MTG should be an investment (it shouldn’t be, it’s just an expensive hobby), but those arguments shouldn’t result in an obnoxiously expensive box of cardboard.
So, sure, Double Masters is a lot of fun, but at what cost? £250 a box, apparently.