Hey there! We're fresh off the release weekend of Masters 25, so let's talk a little about it. It's looking like we're going to have another Iconic Masters on our hands, where the supply supersedes the demand and vendors try to minimize their holdings on this product. As the buy-in for A25 (that feels like such a weird set code, even though it's because M25 belongs to the eventual core set down the road) goes lower, we're going to be looking for opportunities to purchase cards at their low before an eventual uptick. Cryptic Command and Ancestral Vision were two of the clear winners if you managed to pick them up at their low points after Iconic Masters, and their resurgence is only partially thanks to Jace lovers.
One of the loved aspects of Masters sets that aren't format-specific (Eternal Masters, Iconic Masters, and now Masters 25) is cards seeing a foil printing for the first time in their history. Cards like Toxic Deluge, Worn Powerstone, and, uh, Reef Worm…. That were previously only seen in Commander, Planechase or older booster packs now get the foil treatment for the first time, and their multiplier can be abnormally high because of that. Today I'm going to talk a little bit about the first-time foils in a Masters set, and whether it's worth buying in or holding onto the cards.
To begin, let's go over the cards in Masters 25 that are getting the first-time foil treatment.
Some of these are extremely relevant for Commander and Cube players alike. Prossh may be a bulk mythic, but the foil version is currently listing for around $60! Magus of the Wheel goes from $1.50 to $8 when upgrading the nonfoil to foil, and the Ash Barrens reprint is both timely for Pauper while granting us a $9 foil version for those of us who choose to show some love to our decks of all commons. On the other hand, no one was really agonizing over not having access to a foil Phyrexian Ghoul or Cinder Storm. Not all first-time foils are special; just the ones that already had demand in existing formats.
If you think $9 is expensive for a first-time Commander uncommon, let's look at Eternal Masters back in 2016. Prior to the set, the only way we saw older sought-after cards get reprinted in foil was the Judge program, From the Vault or other obscure programs like Commander's Arsenal. When Eternal Masters gave us first-time foils of powerful Legacy staples like Pyroblast, Toxic Deluge and Gamble, players were incredibly excited. Players who were only a few cards from foiling out a Legacy or Commander deck could finally find an end to their long journey, but at quite a high cost. Foil Gamble started out at over $50, but continued to creep downward instead of upward. Foil Ashnod's Altar was almost $30 in the summer of 2016, but now limps in at barely $9, even as the nonfoil has almost doubled in the same timeframe.
I bring this up because I've been getting a few questions about the investment potential of these first-time foils in Masters 25. There's only a few standout Commander staples, and it's worth wondering if foil Myriad Landscape deserves to start out its life at a lower price than where foil Ashnod's Altar sits now. Magus of the Wheel is the closest most Commander decks will ever get to Wheel of Fortune without paying upwards of $50 for the real thing, so I can understand why foils might seem attractive out of the gate at under $10.
If you're reading this as a Gisela player with 96 foil cards in their deck and a foil Magus of the Wheel/Myriad Landscape in their cart, hear me out. Myriad Landscape and Ashnod's Altar each see play in over 26,000 decks on EDHrec, so they have approximately equivalent demand. We're used to seeing high foil multipliers on Commander staples that are being printed in foil for the first time, so I understand the temptation to buy it. In fact, if you understand the risk and are willing to accept long-term losses, it might be perfectly rational for you to buy within the first weekend of release so you can play with it. You might remember that concept from my article on measuring the cost of buying in too soon, and it applies here just as much as it does to release weekend of Dominaria.
Am I suggesting that Myriad Landscape will decrease a massive amount over the course of two years like Ashnod's Altar? Not exactly; I do think Landscape (and other similarly priced first-time foils like Magus of the Wheel) have a little while to drop, but I think their floor will come soon enough, at around $5 and $6 respectively. Meanwhile, I expect the higher-end mythics like Prossh and Animar foils to take a harder nosedive, because of how niche the demand for those is. While Prossh and Animar are powerful Commanders, they each only have around 1700 decks recorded on EDHrec. Compared to the 26,000 of Altar and Landscape, I think it's easy to see how the TCGplayer marketplace will fill up with players and sellers who crack open a first-time foil Commander and try to turn it into something else more liquid. Does anyone else remember how foil Winter Orb was $50 on release, and now it chills out at $16? I expect Prossh and Animar to follow a similar trajectory and end up in the $20s, or even lower if they get hit by a Judge foil printing in the near future.
While some cards received first-time foils, there are a few other cards in the set where I would argue that this foil version will eclipse previous ones simply because of the watermark. Right now, the most prominent example of this appears to be Blood Moon. With a watermark that perfectly matches the card name, the foil is going for $38 at presstime. Meanwhile, the Modern Masters 2017 version is dipping down to a low of $32. This might be Ponza and Skred players swapping out their MM17 copies for watermarked copies, in spite of the historical precedent that Masters foils are always weaker than previously printed foils. Modern Masters 2013 version Blood Moon foils are listed for $48 simply based on scarcity, and while I don't think the watermarked version catches up, it's important to know the distinction in which watermarks make which cards worth more.
Cards like Lightning Bolt, Brainstorm and Counterspell are currently experiencing some of their cheapest foils ever (other than the historically ugly Premium Deck Series), so it doesn't look like the M or snowflake watermark and centering are doing any favors for the price. I did expect the centered text to hold a bit more value, so I think these staples are strong pickups now if you're trying to foil out pieces to a paper pauper deck, cube or Commander deck. Just remember to hold off on those first-time foils for a few weeks when they're printed in Masters 25 or future Masters products.
While we're on the subject of foils, let's talk about some Masterpieces that are sure to be an elephant in the room this week. Partially thanks to the 5% kickback sale on TCGplayer this past weekend, we saw a lot of increased buying of Kaladesh block Masterpieces; Sol Ring, Mox Opal, Trinisphere and Wurmcoil Engine in particular saw significant jumps. While none of these were first-time foils, they're still as close to Reserved List cards that we're ever going to get in the modern era. They're scarce, always getting slotted into Commander, Modern, Cube and Legacy decks, and we're not going to see another print run of Kaladesh or Aether Revolt.
I really have to recommend biting the bullet if you ever plan on owning any particular Masterpiece card for the long term. There's just so little reason for these cards to go down; while I understand that it can be frustrating buying into a card relatively recently after a price increase (and I normally would advocate against it), paying $300 for the best Sol Ring is going to hurt less now than it will a year or two down the road.
- DJ Johnson