If you keep up with our posts on Invicta‘s website, you may have heard whispers of our new fangled gaming section, along with our first review of music based puzzler Beat The Game (here). In the future, we will be featuring reviews of any type of game we can get our hands on, from video and mobile games, to traditional board, card and tabletop games to add to our ever growing list of things to review, already including music and comics of all kinds.
Today, we bring to you our review of Magic: The Gathering‘s newest set, Eternal Masters. To the uninitiated, it may look like just another expansion for an already growing card game, but for enthustiasts, its a very important event for many reasons. Basically a set of reprints of the most powerful cards from the card game’s history, and those most used in the games longest running and most expensive formats (Vintage, Legacy and EDH/Commander), for many of the cards in the set, this release will be the first time these cards have been available outside of the secondary market for number of years. The set features many valuable cards commanding price tags ranging from a few to hundreds of pounds, such as Jace, The Mind Sculptor, Wasteland and Dack Fayden. This set makes it easier, and more importantly, cheaper to get hold of these cards, meaning more copies are in circulation. Right from the moment the first cards were spoiled, Eternal Masters generated a lot of hype and speculation on social media, and mixed opinions from both newer players looking to get into formats with a higher initial buy in, and collectors worried about the impact on the value of cards they already own.
If you’re a complete newbie to the game, it’s probably best to find out more in this informative article here.
So first, the basics. Eternal Masters is sold in 15 card booster packs, with an MSRP of $9.99 (around £7), featuring 10 common cards, 3 uncommon cards, one rare or mythic rare card, and one premium foil card, which can be from any of the aforementioned rarities. For some cards in the set, this will be the first time they have been printed in foil, as many were released before game creators Wizards of the Coast started to include foil cards in their packs back in 1999.
Designed as a set to be played in a draft environment, where players sit at a table together, pick one card from a booster pack, and pass it to a player sat next to them. The player will then receive a pack from the player on the opposite side, minus their pick from it to pick another card. This process continues until no cards remain in the pack, and another pack will be opened, and the process continues. Then, each player will build a deck from the cards they have picked and play a tournament against the other players in the draft. This is heralded as the most skill intensive format by many, and with so many powerful cards to choose in Eternal Masters, probably even more so when drafting with this set. As this is the way Wizards of the Coast intended the set to be played, we sent one of our writers along to play a couple of these events.
We played two Eternal Masters drafts altogether, one in person at St Helens gaming store War & Hobby, and one on online client MTGO. The first thing we noticed whilst drafting is that picking the first card from your first pack is extremely hard, even daunting at times. With so many powerful cards to choose from, it’s often difficult to decide which is the best, or most efficient card to pick. This does become easier as the draft goes on, as the player then has more idea of which colours are in their deck, and from the lack of cards of a certain colour in cards passed to them, what players around them are playing too. But, as long as you have conviction, and once you’ve committed to one or two colours in your draft, the deckbuilding stage should be an absolute doddle, as most decks can do a hell of a lot of different things all at the same time.
The second thing we noticed is how balanced the format is. There are many different archtypes within Eternal Masters, all based on famous decks that are prominent in the formats the set is named after, and these give incredible amounts of freedom for the player to build basically any deck they’d like to, as long as the cards are available in the draft. in our two drafts, we drafted two incredibly different decks, Red Green Stompy, which relies on playing big creatures fast and overwhelming an opponent with sheer force, and Blue Red Spells, a deck which aims to do exactly the opposite, playing spells to nullify opponents plays during a game until we can drop a large creature to close out the game. But with each of these decks, the thing most noteworthy during the game is that at no point did any game feel like a sure win, every game was extremely close, and extremely skill intensive with a lot of them becoming more like a battle of wits towards the closing stages of the game.
Overall, Eternal Masters can only be a good thing for older Magic: The Gathering formats. The set is a lot of fun to draft, slinging big, dumb powerful spells and creatures around is the one thing that got a lot of people into magic in the first place, and this set is absolutely full of them. For a lot of people, the set will also break the entry barrier into more expensive formats for a lot of players, creating a healthier, more active worldwide Eternal format community, increasing the turnout for Legacy and Vintage events, and meaning more players can get in on the fun. And that’s what this is all about really, isn’t it?