After wading through roughly two-hundred pages of complaints on both the MTGSalvation and MTGCommander forums, I’ve come to the conclusion that there isn’t a single person on the planet who is happy about the upcoming Commander’s Arsenal release.
Okay…I skimmed quite a bit.But the point stands.
You’d think Richard Garfield himself went out of his way to look up every single EDH-playing Magic fan on the planet, headed to each house, and slapped each person across the face, slapped their moms immdiately afterward, and then set their dogs on fire.People are seriously angry here.
Initially, I thought it was the price tag.$75 is a tough pill to swallow in the wake of the Premium Deck Series that comes in at less that half of that total.But I realized that people will pay whatever the dollar amount is and either complain or not complain no matter what the number that rings up on the cash register is.It’s not like most of us don’t do it each summer anyway with the From The Vault series.
(I know…there’s a difference between price-gouging and MSRP, but honestly…most og you would pay twice MSRP for a FTV, so this isn’t much of a stretch.)
From there, I began wondering if it wasn’t a case of availability.The original word on the street was that stores were going to be seeing either two or four copies period based on seller status, and that was it.With the success of the format, that does pose a problem.
However, I also noticed that quite a few of the people that are complaining about price and swearing they wouldn’t buy it are the same people complaining about availability as well, so I’m come to the following conclusion:
Magic players love to complain about everything.
But I’m not going to get caught up in the negatives today!(I’ve already done that recently in a post on the subject, after all.)I have feelings and opinions on the topic, and I will say that I agree with the masses that all is not well in EDH-Land with this one.Today, though, I want to stretch my speculation skills a little bit and try to figure out what’s going to be showing up on shelves for approximately seven minutes before selling out everywhere in about three weeks’ time.
Yeah…three weeks from this Friday.You’d think there’d be some more information or spoiled cards out there by now.Wizards must have other things going on right now or something…
READING BETWEEN THE LINES
Let’s take a look at what we know, in hopes that it will paint a better picture of what to expect.
-This is a “filler” product for the summer; the success of the Commander pre-cons last year has prompted WotC to do a summer Commander product annually, and since it was a late decision, this particular release is all old cards with updated foil finishes to appease the EDH masses.(“A treasure trove of Commander goodies” was the Mark Rosewater quote, if I’m not mistaken.)
-The price tag.$75 is steep for a casual format.This is problematic from a financial standpoint, because Wizards has stated that they do not dabble in the secondary market at all.This is incredibly perplexing, because that should mean the set would have a material value worth $75, not a perceived single-card value of that amount.
–From The Vaults; in specific, the business model.WotC sets a $35 price-tag on FTV releases, which are seeded with a singular “money” card to sit at the top of the value pile, and a broad range in value from there down.This seems to point out that Wizards does pay attention to the secondary market when figuring out these things, but values can vary.FTV: Legends had a few reasonably-priced options, while FTV: Realms had Maze of Ith.
So who knows.Maybe we shouldn’t be reading into this at all as a result.But it does seem to indicate that we should expect something that sits roughly at twice the value of an average FTV release.
-The release figures.Initially, again, it was either two or four per store.There have since been lots of reports of stores (my LGS included) that have been allowed to order six.In any case, we’re talking extremely limited product.
What else is there?
-Double-sided “Battle Marks.”
-The cool mechanical life-counter.
The above stuff should be considered nearly throw-in value-wise in my opinion; while it’s critical to understand that these things cost money to produce and market, no-one is buying Fat Packs for the spindowns specifically, and WotC knows this.
-10 oversized premium foil cards.
I’m breaking from the mold here for a second.The poll results from my “Oversize Cards?” poll returned as follows:
-27 votes (96%): Please stop printing these stupid things.
-1 vote (4%): I love ‘em!
That means that if each shop sells four of these things, there will be a good chance that there will be four people trying to sucker other people around the shop into trading real cards for them.Unless the marketing department in Renton, Washington is high, I would expect that these are also being considered value-adds as well.
WHERE THAT LEAVES US…
Here’s my prediction:This summer’s Commander’s Arsenal product will include eighteen cards.These will be Commander “staples” using the broadest sense of the word.There will be a spread of cards that match up in comparative perceived value with the other premium offerings – namely, the From The Vault series – at a rate that is roughly twice the value.In other words, if I pay for $75 worth of cards in this set, it had better look comparable to what my $35 would buy me in FTV product.
AND WHAT THAT MEANS…
-Right off the bat, no Mana Drain.This is partially because the perceived secondary market price on Drain is so much higher than the MSRP on the set, versus something like Maze of Ith that aligned much more favorably with Realms.Primarily, however, this is simply because Mana Drain is not an EDH staple.I could go further here, but I’ll simply say that being old and expensive doesn’t mean it should be considered a format darling, and leave it at that.
No…I lied.I’ll say this: If WotC uses Commander’s Arsenal this year as a way to seed the Eternal Market with foils of highly-playable cards, in the process sucking sales away from the people the set is supposed to be aimed at to begin with, I’ll have to assume that they intend for the Vintage crowd to snap up all the available copies and dish off 17-odd singles to card vendors, who’ll price the singles through the roof.Commander’s Arsenal will be nothing more than a way to reward big card vendors and older format players, and there will be no question on the “dabbling in the secondary market” thing moving forward.
Another article for another day that hopefully never gets written.
-This will be light on lands.Realms took a large chunk out of the available real estate, and Karakas showed up not long after as a Judge Foil.Based on the spoiled art, it looks like CommandTower probably is in in spite of Judge Reward status; I expect that it will be one of about two or three lands in the set.
-“Commander goodies” might need to be taken at face value; when a designer working for a company selling a product says something like this, it usually means he’s referring to things he had a hand in.Don’t be surprised if you see more retreads from last summer than just The Mimeoplasm and CommandTower…
I’m guessing we’ll see a slant towards multi-color cards and artifacts to appeal to a broader audience, and an “iconic” pick or two from each mono-color:
The spoiled art is basically a dead give-away on the Tower, and it fits the “goodies” quote.Done and done.
I think this is the place for a foil Wasteland reprint. It kills two birds with one stone, as an another Eternal seed, and a reasonably-arguable EDH staple, and let’s face it, we’re going to get some of this sort of overlap.
This is a place for Arsenal to pick up some card value. (And I’m pulling for the Judge Foil art…)
Mind’s Eye is still the de facto artifact for sourcing card draw in EDH.Mono-white decks need this card for the most part, and both red and (to a lesser extent) green wouldn’t kick it out of bed either.When I started playing the format, you could pick regular versions up for nothing and foils up at bulk.I think this is an ideal opportunity for a desirable card to see a reprint.
Darksteel Ingot is another solid role-player in most multi-color decks, owing mostly to the indestructible nature, and I think it’s a reasonable low-dollar card that will make it into many decks.It pretty much sets the bar for safe and effective color-fixing, and I know it ends up in just about every deck I make.Another low-end filler that people will love to see.
Sol Ring is arguably the hallmark of last year’s releases, and at current time, it’s one of the most hotly-contested cards in the format.I think WotC will use the opportunity to get some extra foil copies circulating despite the cries for banning that never seem to die down, and it’s so downright iconic both for the game in general and for EDH that I can’t see them passing on this one.
That leaves Crucible of Worlds.I believe that the designers for the set would know they need to seed it with valuable lands and artifacts that serve to appeal to the widest-possible audience, and this is a card that is widely used in EDH, yet walks the line between being available and being too expensive and thus ends up unavailable to lots of people.I think the other three artifacts listed are sure-things, but Crucible wouldn’t surprise me at all.
Looking past the already-spoiled Mimeoplasm, I think Wizards will look to make foil versions of the most popular generals that came out of the Pre-cons.This speaks straight to what I said about Mark Rosewater’s statement; these are the first generals that were designed specifically for Commander product, and the big shock that came out of the Pre-Cons was that the normal-size generals were not in foil.If anything is unbalanced, it may be in this category, and I could see WotC tossing in one of each of the tri-color generals easily.
Kaalia is a sure-thing in my book; she’s far and away one of the most often-used generals from the Pre-Cons, and Avacyn Restored only helps her cause.Past that, I could flip a coin between Riku and Karador, but seeing both wouldn’t surprise me, and with many examples of low-hanging format fruit already getting hit in From The Vault: Legends (read: Kresh, Rafiq), I think Wizards gives everyone the most-requested of the bunch from last summer.(Sorry, Zedruu fans!)
While Sylvan Library is already spoiled, I think it’s necessary to take a look at it from a value perspective.Prices have fluxuated all over the place in the past six months, but I really believe that this card was included before any movement in the Eternal community happened. Despite what Wizards has said, even a hastily-thrown together product is still the product of many months’ planning.
The reason this is important?When this was likely added to the Arsenal list, it was booking at about $8 for white-border variants to about $12 for the Legends version.Looking at the current price of a Legends version is very misleading, and I don’t think has much bearing on this as a “money” include.
Spun another way, if this is the “high-dollar” include of the set, I’m canceling my preorder.
Anyway, I’ve gone back and forth on the second slot, and it has been a toss-up between Witness and Tooth and Nail.Tooth and Nail is arguably the more iconic staple of the two, but two things push me in the other direction.First, I’m not sure even Wizards is looking to push two-card combo wins on the general population, and that really seems to be what T&N is.More and more people I know are pulling it out of their decks for this very reason.Face it – it’s not much fun.
Second, I think there’s a lack of reasonable utility creatures represented here, and Eternal Witness is one of the best there is.I think it has even overtaken Regrowth, the card that gave it life to begin with, in popularity.The foils are either hard to come by (FNM version) or prohibitively expensive (Fifth Dawn version), so I think this card takes the stage this time around over the boring sorcery.
The thing is, red is under-represented in EDH.As a result, the number of cards that truly represent the color and are recognized as staples are just far fewer than other colors.
Don’t get me wrong – I love red.But red will take a beating here, showing up with the only strong case for an auto-include that it really can make.It’s not great, and I think there are better cards and more fun cards (such as Wild Ricochet) that are well-represented, but In the end, I think Kaalia needs her time in the sun, and red gets the one game-ending slot.
Wizards will take the opportunity to showcase the two things black does really well – find things, and kill things.
Demonic Tutor is the black card.Nothing sums up the color and the flavor and the premier ability black has better than this card.It has seen a reprint in a Duel Deck, and a Judge Foil, and I think we’ll see a foiled-out original art version here.
Damnation is another classic black card that is in desperate need of a reprinting.Unless I’m missing some Modern application, Damnation suffers from the same thing Doubling Season does, which is massive casual appeal and an original printing in a relatively unpopular set.The Player Rewards version didn’t really help matters much in this department, so I think it’ll see the light of day again in Arsenal.
(Come to think of it, Doubling Season might be a good option in the Eternal Witness slot as well…)
Rhystic Study is the premier (if a bit irritating) passive draw spell in the format.I think Wizards steers clear of Consecrated Sphinx due to the danger that it gets cut in the near future, but everyone’s favorite excuse to repeat the phrase “How much are you paying for that?” will make the set.It sees a ton of play, but hasn’t seen a printing since Prophecy, and the foil version is prohibitively expensive due strictly to the influence of EDH.
I know that Trinket Mage just saw print in Scars of Mirrodin, but it was horribly under-utilized in that set, and the art just wasn’t as good as the original.Another card that sees play in virtually any blue deck running Sol Ring or Sensei’s Divining Top, I think we see a return to the original Fifth Dawn art here as well.
White also gets the short end of the stick, but it comes back with a reprint of possibly the most iconic spot removal of all time.The math is simple on this one: take the single-most utilized white card in the format, look at the fact that the only foil version is regularly pushing three figures, and the choice for the white include is pretty clear.
I’m positive that I’m way off on this one.I usually am.But I think the logic backing the choices is sound, and I think that Wizards of the Coast is going to do a decent job of seeding this set with some decent format staples.Now, whether or not the EDH masses have a reasonable shot and getting their hands on a copy is another story, and I’ll happily return to complain another day about that.There are quite a few serious problems with how this is potentially being handled, and I’ll admit that I’m incredibly skeptical that a special release with twice the cost and a fraction of the distribution will manage to go off without a hitch, but what can you do?Realistically, Wizards could be paying us to take these off their hands, and we’d collectively still find something to complain about.
So there it is for now.What are your thoughts?Did I miss it entirely, or am I on the money?What are your picks?Sound off in the ‘Comments’ section.