It's Christmas for Cubers.
When a new Magic set releases, cube builders everywhere begin to break down spoilers and make lists of possible additions to their perfect draft environment, but reprint sets are usually a bit of a let down. Eternal Masters is not your normal reprint set though. This is Wizards first "masters" set for eternal formats, and many of these cards have been out of print for a very long time. Newer players have never been exposed to these cards, much less played with them, so this is an exciting infusion of new cube candidates. Hopefully, this article will help these newer players focus their want list. For older cube builders, reprint sets give us new options for "pimping" our cubes, and this set is filled with new art, new card frames and new templates to upgrade our cards and eliminate those foul proxies. We'll touch on the big winners for both groups of cube builders.
Let's get this out of the way up front. Eternal Masters is a premium set with premium prices. At $10.00 a pack (and more as demand dictates) you should expect better value than a normal booster. However if you are lucky enough to pull a mythic you should expect it to be spectacular.
Wizards hasn't disappointed here and I would say almost all the mythic slots deliver. With the exception of Maelstrom Wanderer and Necropotence, if you pull a mythic you have probably pulled a card of significant value. Of course some will always be valued more than others. You can consider yourself a lottery winner if you pull a Mana Crypt or Force of Will, but you shouldn't feel cheated if you pull a Sneak Attack or Chrome Mox. Any of these cards are a slam dunk for a slot in your cube. If you are pimping your cube, the big prize in this set's mythics is Force of Will, with all new art from the original printing's artist Terese Nielson.
Historically, artifacts have always been percieved as something special in Magic. They are an exotic device of unique origin that sets you apart from the other planeswalkers. Eternal Masters hasn't forgotten the players love of some of the oldest and hardest artifacts to acquire in the game. Sensei's Divining Top, originally an uncommon in Champions of Kamigawa, has returned spinning onto the table. Shardless Agent, only seen in Planechase 2012 is back hanging in the wings and the Winter Orb once again will grind games to a halt for the first time since 5th Edition.
All three of these cards are fantastic cube includes. The Top is a cube staple, the Agent is a great cascade creature and the Orb is... frustrating. I'd say of the three the Winter Orb is the card you need to look at strongly before slamming it into your cube. It does warp environments, but it also takes skill to build around. I find this an acceptable balance. As this is the first time the Orb has been printed in foil, I can't wait to get my hands on one.
Finding a card in your deck and putting it in a place you can quickly access it is one of Magic's oldest effects. Named after its original example, the Demonic Tutor, Wizards quickly realized how abusable and game breaking these cards could be (at any cost) and pulled most examples from the game entirely.
Tutors are extremely popular in cube environments, and here are three of the best tutors ever printed ready for your cube. Enlightened Tutor focuses on enchantments in white, Gamble rolls the dice for the chaotic red mage and Vampiric Tutor trades life for a card in black. These are all great choices, but of the three I would say favor the Demonic over Vampiric Tutor and reserve the latter for larger cubes that need the effect twice. Gamble is a great reprint for experienced cube curators - its a very hard to find rare from Urza's Saga - and has never seen print in foil, so it will be a new target for "pimping". I expect the foil to go for a pretty penny.
The most exciting part of any reprint set are cards getting their first reprint and there are a bunch of great ones to choose from. In my top three are Wasteland which hasn't been seen since Tempest, Sinkhole in its first appearance since Unlimited Edition and Maze of Ith which hasn't seen the light since The Dark. All three of these have seen some "boutique" reprints, but they are all ridiculously hard to get and this is a welcome addition to the dwindling supplies in circulation. All three will still be expensive - but kudos to Wizards for printing them at rare - they are all "mythic worthy". Grab them if you see them. These are all cube staples.
Not everything can be perfect in a reprint set, and Wizards insists on making every set draftable no matter the cost, so some valuable slots get eaten by cards that aren't quite up to the standards of the rest of the set. This is OK when you are paying $4.00 a pack, but it is a crime for wizards to do this in a $10.00 per pack set. Larry Niven's Disk, Mother of Runes and Sulfuric Vortex all get the FAIL award from Nomad Gamer. Not only are these cards overprinted, Wizards didn't even bother giving us art that has never been in foil. With the way the game is expanding and rising prices creating a barrier to entry for new players it is criminal that Wizards wastes slots in a reprint set, draft environment be damned - especially at rare.
Everyone has pet cards in their cube. Cards that recall stories from days past and cards you just love should always get a consideration for inclusion in your cube. It is what makes your cube unique. Here are three cards I am excited to see in Eternal Masters. Prodigal Sorcerer, Animate Dead and Control Magic. Three of the oldest cards in the game and I can't wait to play with them again. I adore the ridiculous rules text on Animate Dead - but I am most excited for Control Magic which is seeing foil for the first time in twenty-three years! Windmill slam into MY cube! My only regret is the sorcerer's text which of course should read, "Some people call me... Tim" Whatever Wizards, What. Ever.
I hope this article has provided a helpful hand to cube builders out there. Until the next set, may you never need to mulligan when you cube!