Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer
1, Apr, 24

MTG Head Designer Confirms Masterpieces Are a Thing of the Past

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Article at a Glance

Over the years, Wizards of the Coast has introduced a multitude of different ways to make the process of opening booster packs as enjoyable as possible. Back when Battle for Zendikar was released in 2015, a cool series of Masterpiece cards could be found in a small proportion of booster packs. These cards were thematic to the set, but very rare and valuable. Masterpieces appeared in multiple sets to follow as well.

Since then, Wizards of the Coast has introduced plenty of other methods for giving players the opportunity to open interesting cards in packs beyond just those associated with the main set. From fancy box toppers given alongside Ultimate Masters booster boxes to special bonus sheets such as the Mystical Archives collection from Strixhaven, players have been given the opportunity to open intriguing cards in different ways.

Masterpiece cards, however, were rather unique in how they were distributed. Some players made it clear that they miss the inclusion of Masterpiece cards in packs. Unfortunately, in a recent Blogatog post, Mark Rosewater essentially ended all hopes of a Masterpiece series return. While he originally made it sound like Masters sets would be phased out, he clarified himself and stated he was talking about the Masterpiece series specifically. To understand exactly what this means going forward, it’s worth taking a look back at what made the Masterpiece series different and how things have changed.

Masterpieces of Old

Scalding Tarn

Players got their first chances to open Masterpiece cards with the release of Battle for Zendikar in 2015. These cards were specifically reprints of a variety of different Lands, many of which saw heavy Constructed play. As such, despite appearing in traditional booster packs, they were not part of the main set. Between Battle for Zendikar and Oath of the Gatewatch, 45 Lands were featured.

From there, Kaladesh featured a group of Masterpiece cards, this time known as Inventions focused on an Artifact theme. Later, Amonkhet boasted Invocations revolving around the Amonkhet Gods. These would be the final iteration of Masterpieces in their typical distribution.

What separated these Masterpieces from any other similar selection of reprints is their overall rarity. For instance, about one out of every 144 Kaladesh boosters had an Invention. As such, every Masterpiece was worth a decent chunk of money. Take the foil Scalding Tarn Expedition shown above. While Scalding Tarn is available for roughly $19 in its cheapest traditional form according to TCGPlayer market price, the Expedition is worth about $194.

This isn’t to say that there haven’t been rarer cards printed that were extra expensive. Serialized cards nowadays are often worth a ton of money (none more than the one-of-one copy of The One Ring of course). However, these pricy cards are generally exclusive to collector boosters, giving them an entirely different feel than pulling a Masterpiece out of a generic booster pack.

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The Disappearance of Masterpieces

Demonic Tutor

What’s rather interesting about the conclusion of the Masterpiece series is that the Amonkhet Invocations weren’t originally designed to be the last group. Instead, there were plans to highlight another round with the release of original Ixalan. This time, the theme was set to be based on “exploration,” and the card frame was going to resemble the Land back face of the legendary transforming Enchantments like Search for Azcanta.

This process was ultimately canceled by R&D, however. Mark Rosewater noted that while Zendikar Expeditions and Kaladesh Inventions were both massive successes, there was a notable decline in overall reception with the Invocations. He felt this was, in part, because the theme wasn’t quite as clean as simply showing off Lands or Artifacts. With this in mind, there was a growing concern that these Masterpieces would continue to drop off in quality and not be as well-received from the player base. This helped lead to their cancellation.

It is believed that a handful of cards focused on searching mechanics that turned up in the near future, such as Scapeshift, Gamble, and Demonic Tutor, were originally going to be part of the Ixalan Masterpiece series. While this would make sense, the theory has not been confirmed.

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Newer Reprint Subset Variations

With Mark Rosewater confirming that Masterpieces are generally a thing of the past, that doesn’t mean that we haven’t seen similar approaches in recent sets. For example, since Time Spiral, there have been a ton of different bonus sheets to go along with their associated main sets. With the release of Outlaws of Thunder Junction, there will be two distinct bonus sheets to look forward to!

These bonus sheets, just like Masterpieces, can be found in normal boosters that players use during Limited. The big difference, though, is that up to this point, a bonus sheet card has been guaranteed to appear in each booster. This made them significantly less rare. Excellent reprints of expensive cards, such as Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer in the Multiverse Legends bonus sheet for March of the Machine, actually plummeted in price as a result.

Beyond bonus sheets, players can also open reprints in the form of Special Guest cards and cards from The List. These cards have their own expansion symbol and first appeared in The Lost Caverns of Ixalan. With the introduction of play boosters in Murders at Karlov Manor, Special Guest cards became part of The List. Cards of any rarity from The List appeared in roughly 12.5% of play boosters, taking the slot of a common.

Given the fact that these Special Guest cards aren’t super common to open in play boosters, they seem to most closely resemble Masterpieces. With the vast number of card treatments and reprint variants available in play boosters and collector boosters, it isn’t too surprising that Masterpieces have gone by the wayside.

Still, Masterpieces were a hit when they arrived and helped pave the way for how modern-day boosters are designed. I remember opening a couple myself and getting super excited each time. Masterpieces may be gone, but they will certainly not be forgotten.

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