With the removal of Core sets from the calendar, we knew Wizards of the Coast would be looking for something to fill in the gaps. With the release of the first Modern Masters, we saw that a pretty cool product could take the place of the oft-forgotten Core Set.
And then, this year, they upped the ante. Eternal Masters was a bombshell announcement, and the cards in the set didn't disappoint. With much-heralded reprints in Force of Will, Mana Crypt, Jace, the Mind Sculptor, Karakas, Wasteland, Vampiric Tutor, Sensei's Divining Top, Natural Order, Sneak Attack, Sylvan Library and more, the set had all the makings of one of the best supplementary products ever offered. On top of all that, Eternal Masters was built to be drafted, and though the price tag was steep it was an experience that the Magic community embraced.
You might expect, then, that the best-selling cards from the set would be made up of some or all of those "greatest hits," so to speak. But, if so, you would be mistaken. The top card from Eternal Masters across all TCGplayer vendors will almost certainly surprise you as much as it did me, but first let's take a look at a few honorable mentions.
Of those 10 cards I mentioned – the 10 most expensive in the set - Wasteland came in the highest, clocking in at No. 21 on our list of the top 25 best sellers, while Sensei's Divining Top was just behind at No. 23. The common thread here is that both have multiple formats behind them, since they are both Legacy staples and Commander all-stars.
That hype alone doesn't drive sales. While those 10 cards I mentioned were very much in-demand and flashy as heck, they couldn't match the sales numbers of the other, less expensive, cards in the set. I'm sure there are plenty of players out there who would love to crack a Force of Will from an Eternal Masters pack, but in the sales game, the marquee cards just couldn't match the raw numbers of some of their more affordable brethren.
While single cards made up the top 12 sellers on our list, No. 13 might come as a bit of surprise: a full box of Eternal Masters. One of the main reasons players didn't want to buy Forces or Jaces in droves is very simple: they'd rather buy a sealed box than a playset of those cards. No matter how desirable the most chase Mythic from the set may be, it can't stack up to grabbing a box of Eternal Masters and drafting with friends.
The old standby. Swords to Plowshares has been around as long as Magic itself, and time hasn't diminished its star. Even in Eternal Masters, basically the millionth reprint of Swords to Plowshares, the most reliable removal spell in the game still sells strongly. A staple in Legacy, Commander and just about every kitchen table deck that ever contained white, Swords to Plowshares will always be a player.
These came as a bit of a surprise in a set geared toward competitive players – just look at those high-powered reprints! - but there is an important takeaway from this: players love "casual" cards, and they really do drive the market in many cases. That's why these three cards took up spots 9-7, respectively.
Mogg War Marshal, for example. There's a reason the little red men have been a staple of Magic since the beginning, and why they're included in some fashion in nearly every set created. But there's more to it than that. While Mogg War Marshal is usually a part of the Legacy Goblins deck that pops up from time to time, where it's truly found a home these days is in Modern, where it forms a huge part of the "8-Whack" deck that features a ton of token makers backed up by Goblin Bushwhacker and Reckless Bushwhacker, which turn those tokens brought by Mogg War Marshall into a lot of damage very quickly. While casual demand for Mogg War Marshall undoubtedly drove much of its sales, you can't underestimate the budget-friendly Modern Goblins deck either.
With Nature's Claim, we can draw another lesson: versatility matters. Nature's Claim is one of the most efficient Naturalize effects we've ever seen, trading one mana and instant speed for the "drawback" of giving an opponent four life. While it's not a negligible amount, it also pales in comparison to the utility of removing whatever artifact or enchantment is bothering you. This is why we see Nature's Claim as a common sideboard card in Modern, but it's also why it's an easy go-to in both Commander and 60-card casual.
Rancor falls into the same boat, where it seems some Modern play in the form of Bogles or budget Infect, but really is just a card that has been a crowd favorite dating all the way back to Urza's block. And it turns out that even 18 years later, a recursive source of +2/0 and trample is still pretty good.
One of the major pushes of Eternal Masters – and Vintage Masters online – was to help players get into Magic's oldest formats. Eternal Masters did that in particular for at least one archetype.
Dredge was already one of Legacy's most affordable top-tier decks, and Eternal Masters gave players looking to break into the format plenty of help with a handful of Dredge cards, including the two that came in at No. 6 and 5 on our list: Cabal Therapy and Faithless Looting. Looting does it all for Dredge, setting up its graveyard with dredgers and then paying them off on the flashback, sometimes immediately thanks to Lion's Eye Diamond, while Cabal Therapy helps to strip the hate cards from opponents' hands, even if the Dredge player is tapped out.
What did we learn from this? That players want to play Legacy, and took advantage of the opportunity Eternal Masters afforded them.
Burn, baby, burn. At least, that's my take from seeing Chain Lightning so high in this list. While the not-quite-Lightning Bolt has always been popular, it's actually been difficult to find in the past. The original common version from all the way back in Legends had climbed past $10 due to scarcity, while the only other option available to players was an iffy-looking foil versions from Premium Deck Series: Fire and Lightning.
The reprint in Eternal Masters gave players a chance to do something that wasn't previously possibly – get a modern frame, non-foil copy of Chain Lightning, a staple of Legacy burn decks (another "budget" option showing up on our list). While Chain Lightning does have some applications in other situations, namely in the hands of kitchen table red mages everywhere, I think the card frame and lower price point did a ton to convince players to pick this up.
I heard you liked some drake with your Palinchron?
Make no mistake, Commander is driving this purchase. While its Pauper applications can't be denied – and it was banned fairly quickly on Magic Online because of that – the Pauper crowd doesn't drive the paper Magic market like Commander does.
And does Drake ever shine there. It's easier to cast than Palinchron but goes infinite with Deadeye Navigator and Eldrazi Displacer all the same. While it can't protect itself in the way Palinchron can, that's a small price to play for the ability to generate infinite mana several turns earlier. Peregrine Drake has been the finishing blow in many a Commander game, and an opportunity to pick up a new-art, less-expensive version drove this all the way up to No. 3 on the list of best sellers.
Speaking of banned cards, Bloodbraid has arrived.
There are a few factors to account for here. Bloodbraid Elf is a fine Commander card and is fun in red-green aggro decks across the spectrum, but something tells me that's not the primary reason it sits this far up the list.
We can thank a Magic Online bug for that.
A few weeks before a late 2016 banlist update, it was discovered that Bloodbraid Elf had been made legal in Modern on the Magic Online test client, quite the news considering the elf has been banned for years due to its ubiquity in the format.
It was quickly banned again on the client, and we never found out if it was unbanned on purpose so Wizards could get some data on the card in Modern, or if it was an innocent mistake that was quickly fixed. But, in the end, the answer doesn't really matter – people thought Bloodbraid Elf may be coming off the banlist, and the chatter over an unban that we see with every update intensified moreso than ever this time around. While I don't know for sure that's what brought Bloodbraid all the way to No. 2, it's the most plausible theory.
And the top seller from Eternal Masters? Another card that has a million printings (or at least the 25 that are listed on TCGplayer). But Counterspell is no normal reprint. It literally defines a genre of spells that players have played and loved since Alpha, and here it was in foil and with new art.
Hugely popular card with sweet new art and a shiny new version, all in an already loaded set like Eternal Masters? Good enough to send Counterspell to the top of the list of the set's best sellers.
Thanks for reading,