Eternal Masters: Lessons in Product Design

Published: June 10, 2016 10:00 AM /


Magic The Gathering Eternal Masters

Hello, TechRaptor readers and Magic: The Gathering players.  Today marks the release of Eternal Masters, the long-awaited reprint set containing staples from the "Eternal" Magic: The Gathering formats.  You can read all about it in our previous articles.

Now, while there's a lot we can talk about in Eternal Masters—from the quality of the set, to the estimated value of packs—today we're focusing on how Wizards of the Coast has marketed the set for use in the Draft format, despite producing it as a limited print run.

"What's a limited print run?" you're likely asking.  It's basically what it sounds like, really.  All Magic: The Gathering product is classified in one of three ways: set, limited, and supplemental.  Set is the standard printing for most Magic: The Gathering products and can be found everywhere from your local game store to big box stores like Wal-Mart, and can have multiple printings.  Supplemental product is also sold everywhere, but has fewer printings than a set does.  Limited, however, is only sold in local game stores with a single printing, with stores being allocated product based on how they're classified in the Wizards Play Network—the better your store is, the more of a limited product it receives.

Shadows Over Innistrad is a set, Commander 2015 is supplemental, Eternal Masters is limited, as a reference.

Most players are okay with Eternal Masters being a limited print, or understand the reasons behind it.  Wizards of the Coast doesn't want to flood the secondary card market with too many reprints of cards and cause another collapse of the same magnitude that led to the formation of the Reserved List (which is an article for a different day).

What has most players confused and frustrated, though, is that Wizards of the Coast is also marketing Eternal Masters for use in the Draft format (information on how that works can be found here).  And there's two main reasons for the frustration: cost-to-Draft and product availability.

Because Eternal Masters is a limited print run, the MSRP for packs is much higher than it would be for normal set runs.  Packs of Eternal Masters have an MSRP of $9.99, packs of Shadows Over Innistrad have an MSRP of $3.99.  As drafting requires three packs per player, most drafts cost around $15 to enter, depending on the store.

However, as Eternal Masters has a higher MSRP, that means the cost to enter a Draft is much, much higher than usual—at least $30, with most stores charging anywhere from $40-$50 depending on how they price packs.  Not many players are comfortable spending that much money on drafting, especially if they aren't strong Draft players and are just looking to open product.

The second issue with Wizards of the Coast trying to promote limited prints like Eternal Masters for Draft is simply that stores might not have enough product to do multiple Draftings.  Consider this: an 8 man Draft pod requires 24 packs to run, and there are usually 36 packs in a booster box.  As booster boxes of Eternal Masters contain 24 packs, that means every time a Draft event is run, a booster box needs to be opened.  If your store has multiple Draft pods running, that means the store needs to open multiple boxes of product just for those events to run—that doesn't even consider prize support for winning players.  Nor does it consider people buying boxes to open themselves in the search for expensive cards, or to resell at a later date when the supply of product runs out.  It also doesn't take into account stores opening boxes themselves to fill binders with cards for sale to customers, as is common with every set that's released.

This means at most your local game store might be able to do only one Draft event, which completely goes against how Wizards of the Coast has been marketing Eternal Masters.  The set really can't be called a "Draft set" if it can only be drafted once at a store, or if that store's product wasn't completely bought out through pre-orders.

Wizards of the Coast needs to figure out what it wants to do with the Masters line of product.  Is it a set designed for Draft, with enough product to meet player demands?  Or is it a high value limited printing, with highly-sought (and costly) reprints of format staples? 

By trying to tackle both options, Wizards of the Coast only ends up creating products that are sub-par in quality and only end up exasperating players who just want to get a straight answer on how they should gauge their expectations.

"Why should I buy this?" is the first thought that goes through every players mind when Wizards of the Coast announces a new Magic: The Gathering product for sale.  By continuing to produce product that tries to do too many things without successfully accomplishing them, it only turns away players who would be otherwise interested.

What are your thoughts on how Wizards of the Coast handles reprint sets like the Masters series?  Do you think Eternal Masters is more or less successful than its predecessors?  Let us know in the comment section below!


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