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MTG’s Commander Masters set charges a king’s ransom for a mixed bag

"That's clearly a proposition for absolute suckers."

Image credit: Wizards of the Coast

Magic: The Gathering revealed more information about the trading card game’s annual reprint set for 2023, Commander Masters. This release will focus on the popular kitchen table format by stuffing boosters full of ostensibly needed reprints alongside powerful tools and iconic legendary creature to pilot the 100-card decks.

Except, fans and players are already beginning to grumble over what publisher Wizards of the Coast is promising to deliver at a price point that many find restrictively expensive. A box of 24 draft booster packs is currently being sold on Amazon for roughly $350, while the quartet of collector boosters - which contain all variant art treatments and foil cards - will run someone around $230.

Compare that to the latest mainline card set, March of the Machines: a draft booster box from a set that’s mere months old costs just above $100, and its collector boosters demand a smidge south of $200 for 12 packs. Commander Masters is selling less cards for more money across all of its products, so the contents must be worth it, right?

Wheels believes Commander is the best way to play Magic: The GatheringWatch on YouTube

That largely depends on how much good faith you’re willing to extend to Hasbro, the parent company that has consistently propped up Magic: The Gathering as its golden cash cow. Commander Masters is a reprint-only set that hopes to distribute more copies of highly sought-after game pieces so that the price of entry into this ‘casual’ format doesn’t balloon beyond the means of the average player.

There are some big wins coming out of the promotional previews, such as the Medallion Cycle - a collection of five artefacts that each cost two colourless Mana to cast and reduce the cost of all spells of a particular colour by one Mana. These precious stones have become precious cards in the 99, and reprinting them in Commander Masters fits the set’s remit. A separate cycle of powerful instant spells that become free to cast as long as your commander is on the field makes a much-needed return, as well.

Commander Masters still carries the obligation of providing a limited play environment, designing what cards are included so that players can take part in draft or sealed events. This release follows the four-player commander draft format, similar to Commander Legends: Battle for Baldur's Gate, which means some of the cards printed at the higher rarities were put there with a limited environment in mind and not necessarily to match their value beyond the table.

Commander Masters debut livestream on Magic: The Gathering's YouTube channel.Watch on YouTube

Players have already begun voicing criticism of some of the cards chosen for Commander Masters, arguing that pulling a rare or mythic worth a handful of cents from a booster pack that cost $25 or more benefits nobody but Wizards of the Coast. One Reddit post lambast head designer Mark Rosewater’s statements from the set’s livestream preview where he said that the team needed to “pick reprints that players want and make it for a fun Limited environment.”

“Part of having a ‘fun limited environment’ is being able to afford to play the limited environment in the first place,” user Imnimo wrote. “There is zero chance I'm going to play limited with a set that costs $300+ for a draft box. That's clearly a proposition for absolute suckers.”

The Commander format has exploded in popularity over the last decade, mirroring an increased amount of official support from Wizards of the Coast. For some, this means an easier path into one of the most fun ways to play MTG. For others, it signaled an era of over-saturation and price speculation within a format that once celebrated the use of cards that held no value in competitive play. Whether you believe Masters sets should emphasise needed reprints over game design, the point becomes moot when the price of entry has inflated like US rent prices.

Commander Masters will launch on August 4th following the usual preview events at local game stores during the prior weekend. Previews for what waits inside packs for those brave or wealthy enough to crack them are already underway. This set will not come to Magic Arena and will be a paper-only print run. More information can be found on Magic: The Gathering’s official website.

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