I usually do a financial review for each new set, but since Eternal Masters is all reprints, I decided to instead do a general financial analysis of how the set will impact the secondary market. I will focus on which cards from Eternal Masters will impact Legacy the most, including which decks to use the cards in. I will also talk a lot about which Legacy staples were NOT included in Eternal Masters and which of those cards are good investments and why. Lastly, I will discuss some of the overarching risks associated with investing in Legacy staples and how to mitigate such risks. Whether you're looking to get into Legacy or simply invest for profit, that's the focus of today's article.
Let's start with the Top 10 cards in the set that you'll be happy to open from a pack of Eternal Masters, nine of which are Legacy staples.
Jace, the Mind Sculptor
Force of Will
Sensei's Divining Top
Mana Crypt (Vintage)
Mana Crypt is the highest-demand card in the set, but entirely for its Vintage appeal since it is not legal in Legacy. The next highest demand reprint is the card I previewed last week: Karakas. It goes in lots of Legacy decks as a singleton and is played as a three-of in Death & Taxes.
While Karakas and Mana Crypt are the highest demand reprints, Jace, the Mind Sculptor is not far behind and has the potential to skyrocket in demand if it ever becomes legal in Modern.
Wasteland and Force of Will are the reprints that will have the highest impact on Legacy. These were each originally printed at uncommon and pull more than $50 each. Since Wasteland (way back in Tempest), there has never been an uncommon to reach $50 in price. That's saying something! These two cards define Legacy almost as much as dual-lands.
Beyond these mega-staples, some key cards such as: Sneak Attack Entomb, Natural Order, Sensei's Divining Top, and Sylvan Library are each Legacy staples in the $20-40 range that appear in Eternal Masters.
Let's consider some of the major decks in Legacy that play these cards while highlighting other key cards that were NOT printed in Eternal Masters. Then we'll discuss the financial implications of these inclusions and omissions.
Jace, the Mind Sculptor, Sneak Attack, and Force of Will got reprinted in Eternal Masters, but Show and Tell did not. Also City of Traitors and Volcanic Island are on the Reserved List.
Deathrite Shaman, Green Sun's Zenith, and Natural Order got reprinted in Eternal Masters, as did Wirewood Symbiote, but Gaea's Cradle is on the Reserved List.
Entomb got reprinted, but the dual lands are on the Reserved List.
Gamble, Maze of Ith, and Wasteland got reprinted in Eternal Masters, but Dark Depths, Rishadan Port, and Grove of the Burnwillows did not. Also Mox Diamond, Bayou, Taiga, and most important, The Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale, are all on the Reserved List.
Baleful Strix, Shardless Agent, Deathrite Shaman, Toxic Deluge, Wasteland, Force of Will, and Jace, the Mind Sculptor all got reprinted in Eternal Masters. Bayou, Tropical Island, and Underground Sea are on the Reserved List and Tarmogoyfs are still not easy to come by even with multiple printings.
Jace, the Mind Sculptor, Force of Will, and Sensei's Divining Top all got reprinted, but Tundra and Volcanic Island are on the Reserved List.
Karakas and Wasteland were huge reprints for this deck, but Rishadan Port and Cavern of Souls continue to be pricey without a reprint. Also the R/W version did not get Imperial Recruiter.
Wasteland and Karakas got reprinted, but Ancient Tomb and Cavern of Souls did not. Also City of Traitors is on the Reserved List.
Force of Will, Sylvan Library, and Wasteland got reprinted, but Berserk did not. Tropical Island is on the Reserved List.
Force of Will and Wasteland got reprinted, but Tropical Island and Volcanic Island are on the Reserved List and Tarmogoyf is still hard to acquire.
Legacy Staples on the Reserved List
Lion's Eye Diamond
City of Traitors
The Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale
Candelabra of Tawnos
The Reserved List policy was created for the purpose of maintaining consumer confidence in the sustained monetary value of individual Magic cards. Many people overlook the importance of this policy, but think about Magic's bottom line: it's all about selling booster packs. And if none of the cards you can open in the booster packs are worth any money, then who is going to buy booster packs?
Even if the primary purpose for buying packs is because you enjoy playing Magic, the collectible appeal and long-term sustainability of Magic as a hobby requires Magic cards to be worth money. The Reserved List policy essentially ensures that the secondary market (i.e. the consumers who buy the booster packs) will retain that value, as opposed to Wizards double-dipping and cashing in that value by reprinting the cards in order to sell more booster packs. Other collectible card games have not adopted such a policy, which resulted in the cards not being worth any money, which hindered the sale of packs, which bankrupted the games. It's therefore important that Wizards continues to honor at least the primary elements of the Reserved List policy in order to ensure consumer confidence in purchasing Magic boosters.
It's a safe bet to assume these 16 Legacy staples will never be reprinted and will only continue to go up in value over time.
The general idea is that Modern Masters increased interest in Modern, which heightened demand for Modern staples, but only those staples reprinted in Modern Masters had increased supply. Therefore all the staples not reprinted spiked to keep up with the increased demand without an increase in supply. Then when Noble Hierarch was reprinted in Modern Masters 2015, it dropped back down. I expect the same trend to happen for Legacy staples that were not reprinted in Eternal Masters, assuming Eternal Masters increases interest in Eternal formats.
While the above 16 cards are on the Reserved List, there are other Legacy-relevant cards that were not reprinted in Eternal Masters that are not on the Reserved List.
Liliana of the Veil
Cavern of Souls
Magus of the Moon
I expect most if not all of these cards to be reprinted in Modern Masters 3, given the goals of these sets and the demand of these cards among Legacy and Modern players. In the meantime I expect the prices of these cards to continue steadily increasing until they are confirmed to be reprinted in Modern Masters 3. And if any card on this list does not make it into Modern Masters 3, I would invest heavily in the card because it is likely to spike hard soon thereafter. Keep that advice in the back of your mind for future Modern Masters sets.
Grove of the Burnwillows
Show and Tell
This is a list of cards I would recommend investing in and then selling before the next Eternal Masters preview season begins. These are some of the highest-demand Legacy staples not on the Reserved List that were not reprinted in Eternal Masters. Imperial Recruiter is the biggest one as it is played in multiples in the R/W Death and Taxes deck as well as in Imperial Painter. Rishadan Port is an especially good one to pick up since two of the most expensive Death & Taxes staples were reprinted (Wasteland & Karakas), and it is one of the few decks in the format that does not play dual lands. This makes Death and Taxes an especially attractive deck for Legacy newcomers to gravitate toward.
Also worth mentioning is that part of Berserk's demand is form the 1994 format which has recently exploded in popularity, so if you're looking to complete your Legacy Infect deck, you might look into purchasing a From the Vault: Exiled Berserk for cheaper than the Unlimited one, or wait and hope it gets printed in Eternal Masters 2.
We haven't seen a lot of Portal Three Kingdoms cards or cards from Starter in Eternal Masters, so maybe those will be in the next Eternal Masters set along with Imperial Seal? It would be sweet to finally get black-bordered (and foil!) versions of the Portal Three Kingdoms staples for Vintage and Legacy.
Organized Play and the SCG Open Series have decreased their support for Legacy in recent years. In Europe the Bazaar of Moxen series is still going strong, and Legacy Championships is still a thing. There will likely always be a market for Legacy cards, but there are a few unpredictable but very relevant risks that could impact the steady rise in demand of Legacy staples.
The original Reserved List Policy was made in 1996 in response to public outcry over Chronicles reprints such as Erhnam Djinn, City of Brass, and the Elder Dragon Legends. Collectors feared that their rare cards would become worthless if Wizards of the Coast kept reprinting them. This initial Reserved List essentially included every card up through The Dark that had not already been reprinted.
The Reserved List policy was later amended in 2002 to remove all the commons and uncommons from Alpha, Beta, and Unlimited and also to remove Feroz's Ban, which was accidentally reprinted in Fifth Edition after being selected as one of the rare cards from Homelands to be placed on the Reserved List.
In 2010 the Reserved List Policy was again amended. It had previously only pertained to non-premium versions of cards, allowing for foil promos to be reprinted. As of 2010 the policy decided to henceforth include all reprints, including promo versions.
We are now in 2016, which means if history were to repeat itself, the Reserved List is due for another amendment soon. The untouchable premise of the Reserved List policy is that the Power Nine will never be reprinted. This has always been the greatest concern of collectors and the primary motivation behind honoring the policy. As long as none of the Power Nine ever get reprinted, the bulk of the promise behind the policy will remain intact.
As far as Legacy is concerned, there are a few stray staples (Gaea's Cradle, City of Traitors, Lion's Eye Diamond, and Mox Diamond) that for whatever reason happened to be placed on the Reserved List. However, the bulk of the impact of the Reserved List on Legacy is placed squarely on the ten dual-lands. They define Legacy and represent the most insurmountable barrier-to-entry of the format. If Wizards decides they prioritize the growth of Legacy more than they prioritize honoring the current Reserved List policy, then reprints of the dual land cycle could cause the price of dual lands to Plummet, albeit temporarily. If this influx of supply increases interest in Legacy, then the high prices would soon return. Nevertheless this is a real risk with the potential to happen, given the history of the Reserved List policy amendments and the increasing demand from players wanting to get into Legacy who cannot afford dual lands.
I fully expect the next Modern Masters to contain most if not all of the following: Tarmogoyf, Liliana of the Veil, Horizon Canopy, Damnation, Snapcaster Mage, Cavern of Souls, Ancestral Vision, Goblin Guide, and Magus of the Moon. If they keep reprinting Tarmogoyf, maybe eventually the price will drop to something reasonable. I expect there will be another Eternal Masters set that includes most of the Legacy staples not on the Reserved List that didn't make it into the first Eternal Masters set. If this happens, then the prices of all those cards I said to invest in while likely drop (temporarily), just as current reprints have already dropped a bit (by maybe 25% or so).
The best way to mitigate your risks in any of these scenarios is to not wait too long on cashing in your investments. Noble Hierarch spiked within a couple months of Modern Masters' release and kept steadily rising until it was announced to be in Modern Masters 2015, at which point it abruptly dropped in value. It has since steadily been climbing again. I predict that the following cards will spike within the next few months and will continue to rise until the release of Eternal Masters 2:
Grove of the Burnwillows
Show and Tell
I similarly predict the following cards will soon spike in value and will continue to steadily rise in value until either the Reserved List policy is amended or Legacy is replaced by an Unreserved Eternal format:
Lion's Eye Diamond
City of Traitors
The Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale
Candelabra of Tawnos
Regardless of what cards you invest in, now is a great time to get into Legacy if you haven't already or to finish off a deck that is missing only a few key pieces. I also can't wait to draft this set. It looks super fun and has many of my favorite cards for long ago. As with any investment, there is risk, but when it comes to investing in Magic cards, if you invest in a deck, you can play it in tournaments. The fun reward is intangible, and more often than not, your investment will yield a profit over time, assuming Legacy cards continue their upward trajectory in price.