Thanks to Wizards of the Coast for this exclusive preview.
Something very cool is happening in Double Masters—something that hasn't happened since Wizards of the Coast first released Revised Edition back in April of 1994.
For those of you who haven't been playing this game since the age of dial-up modems, Revised was the last set to feature the original Badlands that Richard Garfield designed for Alpha several years earlier. The dual lands only exist because Garfield never expected anyone to buy more than a couple of booster packs, so he wasn't concerned about printing a few lands that were strictly better than basics. He figured that each player might only ever have a couple of these special lands, and had no idea that players would still be seeking them out more than two and a half decades later.
The original ten dual lands haven't returned since Revised, of course. Fourth Edition didn't have a rare land cycle at all, while Fifth, Sixth, Seventh, Ninth and Tenth Editions all featured the same five allied color Adarkar Wastes that were originally printed in Ice Age. This was the era of Magic when WotC believed that enemy color pairs should have very little mana fixing, and almost every land cycle back then was limited to the five allied color pairs.
Things slowly began to change in the 00s. The enemy colored pain lands were finally brought to life in Apocalypse, Magic's first expansion focused on exploring the opposing color pairs. Things really took off when the original Ravnica block was printed, though, as we traveled to a plane where enemy and allied color pairs had equal representation. This was also the first time we got a brand-new cycle of ten lands across an entire block—the now-iconic Blood Crypt. In the wake of Ravnica's success, WotC has printed enemy and allied color fixing lands in roughly equal numbers.
But even as WotC embraced color parity, WotC still hasn't printed all ten cards from a rare land cycle in a single set since Revised. They've come close—Tempest had a ten-card land cycle, but they were printed at uncommon and were awful. Dragon's Maze technically featured all ten shock lands, but those were Return to Ravnica and Gatecrash reprints with their original expansion symbols that showed up from time to time in the basic land slot.
To be quite honest, I didn't expect this streak to ever be broken. It was like Joe DiMaggio's 56-game hit streak: a relic from a bygone era. Using ten of your rare slots on a single cycle just didn't seem possible in a world where most Magic sets had no more than 53 non-mythic rares.
But Double Masters isn't most Magic sets. It has more than twice as many rare slots, and thus more room for WotC to really explore that tantalizing doubling theme. And what's a more exciting asset to double than the number of rare lands in the rare land cycle?
That brings us to our preview cards today. We learned last week that the allied color Shadowmoor Fire-Lit Thicket would be appearing in Double Masters, and I'm happy to announce that for the first time in decades, the cycle will be completed in a single set. World, say hello again to our old pals, the Eventide enemy colored filter lands!
"But Cassie!" I can already hear you saying. "These aren't Arid Mesa, which are the lands that I want! How dare you preview a cycle of rare lands that do not go out and fetch other lands!"
Believe me, I get it. I want fetch lands back, too. WotC has said it'll happen this year, and I see no reason to doubt them. The fact that there aren't any fetch lands in Double Masters tells me that WotC probably wants to give them a place of honor, likely in one of the myriad Zendikar Rising products. So we're all going to take a moment to mourn the lack of fetch lands in Double Masters, and then we're going to go back to appreciating the enemy colored filter lands for exactly what they are.
Feeling better? Me too, because once you get beyond the whole fetch land thing, the enemy filter lands are actually a pretty awesome reprint.
If you're solely a competitive Magic player, you might not have given these lands much thought recently. They were Standard powerhouses back in their day, though, and they've seen quite a bit of play in Modern over the years, too. Granted, they've been mostly outclassed in that particular format by the Scars of Mirrodin and Kaladesh fast lands, not to mention our good old fetch lands and shock lands, but the filters are still incredibly good if you're trying to jam with a bunch of flashy spells that have strict color requirements.
Hmm—I wonder if there's a popular Magic format where that tends to happen a lot?
Turns out, filter lands see most of their play in Commander, where they are among the best pieces of mana fixing in the format. According to EDHREC they don't see quite as much play as the pain lands or the fast lands right now, but that's almost entirely due to pricing and availability. The pain lands have been reprinted many times, and they're still readily available for $2 to $3. This will be just the third non-premium reprint for the filter lands, and a lot of them still sell for $10+. Every Commander player should have at least a set or two of these lands in their collection, and Double Masters should make that purchase significantly more affordable.
The enemy filter lands were last printed in Masters 25, which released in March of 2018. They dropped fast and remained pretty cheap over the next 18 months, but they finally began to tick up again this April as the stimulus checks hit bank accounts and the Commander market took off. Here's Cascade Bluffs' price chart from December of 2017 through mid-July of this year:
There aren't a lot of mysteries afoot here. Cascade Bluffs was a pretty expensive card before the Masters 25 reprint, which isn't surprising. Its days of high-level competitive play were mostly over at that point, but it was still a really great Commander land that had only ever been printed once, all the way back in Eventide. (Save a super expensive Masterpiece version in Battle for Zendikar.)
Cascade Bluffs' price drop during the Masters 25 release fits the model of a semi-popular Commander card, bottoming out the following winter like most Masters set rares tend to do. It slowly rebounded after that, gaining a couple of bucks over the following years, before dipping along with the rest of the market during the start of the pandemic. Then it took off, and was likely heading back up to $20+ until this latest reprint was announced.
When it comes to choosing when to reprint cards, WotC is always kind of stuck between a rock and a hard place. Reprint too soon, and your Masters sets become boring and repetitive. Reprint too late, however, and you end up with the community clamoring for fetch lands now, now, now.
Based on this chart, it looks like WotC was just a few months early with the filter lands. They definitely needed a reprint in the next year or two to keep the price from becoming unreasonable, but they haven't been rising in price long enough for this reprint to feel like a super exciting event. If they'd shown up in a Summer 2021 Masters set when all five enemy filters were selling between $20 and $30 again? We'd be singing a slightly different tune.
Speaking of excitement, let's take a look at the price charts for the other four enemy filter lands and see which ones have proven the most popular over the past couple of years. Here's Flooded Grove:
This roughly tracks with what we know about color pair popularity in Commander. Simic, Golgari and Izzet are very popular color pairs in the format, which is why Cascade Bluffs, Twilight Mire and Flooded Grove lead the pack here. Orzhov lags a bit behind, while Boros is probably the least popular color pair of the ten. I don't expect any of that to change over the next few years, so I'd still rank the future potential of these five lands in those three tiers.
In terms of value, it looks like all five of these lands bottomed out in the $5 range. There was still some light variation—you could have snagged Rugged Prairie for around $4, and Twilight Mire only dipped a hair under $6—but these cards were still all grouped pretty closely together for a number of years. It's possible that this new printing will drop the cards a bit lower, and they might all bottom out in the $3 to $4 range, but my guess is that Double Masters won't be printed in the volume we'd need to see this kind of tumble. Instead, I'm betting they'll do something roughly analogous to what they did last time: a quick drop, followed by a slow slump toward the winter months. And as with most Masters set cards not named "Scalding Tarn" or "Liliana of the Veil," I recommend waiting until late December to snap these up.
Are the enemy filters a good long-term spec hold if you can pick them up cheap? Perhaps, but they aren't going to be my focus. WotC has now reprinted these cards twice in a roughly two-year window, and they've shown a willingness to keep reprinting the same cards over and over again once the train of reprints begins. That means we'll probably see this cycle again in 2022 or 2023. It's possible that WotC simply won't have room to print these again for four to five years and your spec will pay off, but it's more likely that the rebound won't happen as quickly the next time because the overall volume of filter lands in the marketplace has been increased yet again.
Instead, I'd treat the filter lands as $5 to $7 Commander staples that might end up being worth a tad more every now and again. Once they drop back into the $5 range, you can feel pretty safe picking them up for your Commander collection—and if you play that format at all, you absolutely should. If you've never cast a Cryptic Command off Forest, Forest, Island, Flooded Grove, it's an experience I wholeheartedly recommend.
Even though this isn't one of my "normal" articles, I wanted to fit in a small financial trends section like I always do. If this is your first time reading my column, welcome! I publish financial advice with a twist every Wednesday morning, and you can read my full archive right here.
I'll be doing a full Double Masters set review next week, but we know enough about the set for me to be somewhat in awe of how good it is. WotC really pulled out all the stops, and it's going to be hard to open a pack without at least one exciting reprint. The overall hit-to-miss rate in Double Masters is going to be a lot higher than in most Masters sets, and the price you're currently paying per rare slot in a box of Double Masters is still lower than all other Masters sets. I know a lot of people were complaining about this one early on in preview season, but this is the closest we've ever gotten to WotC really just reprinting all the valuable cards they could in a single set.
What does this mean for us? Two things. First, boxes are going to be a nice long-term hold. Unless this is WotC's new normal, people are going to want packs from this set for years to come. I brought this up in last week's article, and I'm doubling down on that prediction now. This is a really, really good set. Snag a box or two and hold onto them, if that's the sort of thing you like to do.
Second, singles prices might end up dropping more than I expected. I first predicted a pretty low drop because the overall supply of Double Masters is slated to be equal to that of Ultimate Masters, which was a lot more limited than sets like Iconic Masters or Masters 25. But if packs with two rares inside are readily available for $10, and the estimated value of a single rare slot is worth twice that, then prices should drop pretty hard. I'll be delving into the actual math of the set next week, but my gut reaction right now is that a lot of these cards are going to be in free-fall two weeks from now.
Speaking of reprints, Zendikar Rising is giving us a new avenue for reprints in the form of "Set Boosters." That's right—in case you were already confused about how many different types of booster packs you could buy, there's yet another kind of booster debuting this fall.
For our purposes, the biggest Set Booster innovation is that each one has a shot at containing one of 300 cards from "The List," a new set of curated cards from throughout Magic's past. We already know that Pact of Negation is on The List, so this might end up being yet another way for WotC to reprint much-needed cards. I'll crunch some numbers once we get a full look at The List, but between this and Double Masters, it's clear that WotC is plowing full steam into the "reprint everything, as much as possible" era. And yes, at some point that is also going to include all the fetch lands.