March 15, 2017

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The Bulk Rares of Modern Masters

Modern Masters 2017 is packed with valuable cards, but like every set it also has its share of low-value or “bulk” rares. A necessary evil, bulk rares make it possible to print valuable cards in a set and still have reasonable booster pack prices. So if I can draw your attention away from those enemy fetchlands for a moment, let’s have a look at how many rares under $3 each Modern Masters set has and how the 2017 edition stacks up.

Modern Masters 2013 Edition

The set that started it all and the one that pretty much got everything right (lack of Remand, Damnation and Noble Hierarch notwithstanding). If there were bulk rares, we barely remember them because we were too busy moving on to our Kitchen Finks, Manamorphose, and Lava Spikes to notice. But the bulk was definitely there - by my count 18 of the 53 rares are worth $3 or less today - or 34% of the rares in the set.

MM2013 Bulk Rares


While it never feels good to open a bulk rare in a premium Modern Masters pack, I take some small solace when the card at least has some application in the Modern format. Of the rares listed above I would point out Kataki, War’s Wage, Death Cloud, Figure of Destiny, and Countryside Crusher as pretty legitimate Modern cards. Granted, I haven’t seen the Crusher on a land-milling rampage in over a year but the card has proven Modern pedigree.

If we subtract these four modern playables we get an “utter jank rare” (aka Commander cards) ratio of 26% for the first Modern Masters.

Modern Masters 2015 Edition

The sophomore set brought a lot of jeers from Magic players. The value was ultra-concentrated in the mythic rares and there were few valuable uncommons to speak of, making booster packs feel like high risk high reward lottery tickets. That the draft environment wasn’t very good didn’t help matters, and explains why you can still find packs of MM2015 at retail price in most local gaming stores.

But how about the bulk rare rate? Was it as bad as it sounds? By my count a whopping 38 of the 53 rares in Modern Masters 2015 are worth $3 or less today - that’s a massive 72%, or more than twice the rate of the 2013 edition.

MM2015 Bulk Rares


So how many of these would be considered Modern playable? Not counting that one monoblue deck that spiked an event playing Guile, Plumeveil and Warmonger’s Chariot, I count just two modern playable bulk rares in this set: Mirran Crusader and Banefire. Both are fringe cards, with Crusader having some shock value against BGx midrange decks and Banefire seeing occasional use as a finisher in decks like Skred Red.

Taking out these two cards doesn’t affect the math much - a full 68% of the rares in this set are practically worthless and unplayable in Modern.

Modern Masters 2017 Edition

Which brings us to the question of the day - how does Modern Masters 2017 stack up? Because this set is still in the pre-order period where card value is usually artificially high I raised the bar for “bulk rare” to $5 and less. You would not know it from the spoiler season hype, but this edition actually clocks in with 30 bulk rares out of 53 - or 56%.

MM2017 Bulk Rares


To be fair, the rest of the rares are worth quite a bit more on average than those in previous sets, but in terms of sheer probability of opening a bulk rare we are indeed clocking in very close to 50/50. How playable are these bulk rares in the set's namesake format?  I count 8 cards with Modern pedigree:

Blade Splicer - sees play in decks with Aether Vial and Restoration Angel, but is often squeezed out by the glut of other 3-drops these decks have access to.

Primal Command - combined with Eternal Witness Primal Command produces a temporary soft-lock for big mana green decks; put a land on top of your opponent's deck and tutor another Witness - repeat until you run out of Witnesses.

Boros Reckoner - used to be a mainstay of Skred Red but has recently been replaced with cards like Mind Stone and Eternal Scourge. Can still earn a spot in the right metagame, and who doesn't want to cast Blasphemous Act with a pair of these out?

Summoning Trap - an optional spell in various R/G Through the Breach ramp decks, Summoning Trap acts as additional ways to cheat out giant creatures and gets major bonus points against anyone looking to Spell Snare your Sakura-Tribe Elder.

Zealous conscripts - sometimes seen as a singleton in Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker decks. Combos like a  Restoration Angel but can also be tutored as an answer to problematic permanents like an 8 counter Nahiri, the Harbinger.

Fiery Justice - a sideboard card for Naya combo or control decks - of which there are admittedly few. Fiery Justice was a bit spicier during the Birthing Pod era, now it's an occasional 1 of in Kiki-Chord sideboards.

Cruel Ultimatum - so we can't really get away with seven mana sorceries in Modern, but if we could this is what we want to get for our trouble. A dedicated few keep trying to make Cruel Control a thing, going deep with cards like Coalition Relic to resolve it while it still matters. Brew tier for sure, but I've got a soft spot for it so I'll count it.

Falkenrath Aristocrat - a surprisingly fast, resilient clock that I’ve seen played mainly in Mardu midrange decks alongside Lingering Souls.

This leaves us with 42% of the rares in Modern Masters 2017 as worthless unplayable bulk - a nearly perfect split between the 26% of 2013 and 68% of 2015.

Despite the almost 50/50 chance of pulling junk in the rare slot the overall value of the set is still very compelling. Analysis done on mtggoldfish suggests that the average pack contents has a value of $9.20 USD, which compares relatively favourably with the $9.99 USD suggested retail price. So don't hesitate to buy packs but also don't be surprised to open a lot of bad rares.

Until next time good luck with your Modern Masters 2017 packs, and may your Modern-unplayable bulk rares at least win you many games of Limited!