Problem #3. Poor Post Production
Sometimes a bad sequel can have a decent storyline and maintain its worthwhile cast, but its failings are due to being beset with a range of unrelated problems after the fact. Superman II would have been on par with the Superman I since they were filmed simultaneously, but due to famous clashes between the director and producers, another director was brought in 3/4 of the way through filming that led to an entire tonal shift during the last bit of filming and editing. Especially that whole cellophane ‘S’ thing…
It just goes to show that even if you theoretically do everything right, how your product is packaged and presented to the public also makes a big difference to how it’s perceived. Just think of the last time you saw a trailer that gave you a vastly different impression than when you saw the actual movie itself.
In that regard, the last wrinkle to Modern Masters 2015 is that Wizards of the Coast used the set to experiment with new biodegradable cardboard booster packs instead of the typical tearable foil packaging. The initial reaction was highly positive, and the set should be commended for that, even if it was more of a parallel development than an aspect of the set itself. These new box packages were met with universal praise for attempting to be more eco-friendly. They were so liked, in fact, that many of our play group remarked that if the company eventually decided to replace the packaging of the cards entirely, they wouldn’t mind at all.
Philosophically, the early reaction from most Magic: the Gathering players tend to agree with this sentiment. Anyone who regularly opens boxes of new cards knows that the booster packaging is hardly environmentally friendly, and for a company the size of WotC to implement recyclable packaging for its flagship game, it would go a long way for sustainability. Plus, the packaging looks cool, giving off sleek but slightly angular feel.
Of course, though, like everything else Modern Masters 2015, even the packaging was had a pair of issues. And they were sizable ones.
First, unlike airtight foil packaging, the cardboard boxes are slightly larger than the cards themselves, allowing cards to shift around during movement. In many cases, this caused foils to become scratched and card edges to be dinged before they were even opened. When you’re hoping to open a pristine $150 card, let alone paying $10 a pack for a brand new 15 cards, there’s a justifiably high expectation that they be in perfect condition. In this case, they weren’t. Moreover, because they were trying out a different printer, there was also many instances of cards being miscut on top of that, leading to a lot of unhappy players – tournament, collector, and casual alike. There were so many reports of cards being damaged and miscut, in fact, that Wizards even posted a notice about it on their site just days after the set’s release.
Secondly, and far more concerning, was incidents of card tampering.
See, one of the nice parts about the modern crimped foil packaging is that it’s fairly obvious whether the pack has been tampered with. It’s incredibly difficult to open a pack, extract the cards, replace them, and seal it back up in an identical manner. With the cardboard Modern Masters packs, it technically is possible. That is, it was found to be possible to weaken the package’s glue and open up the pack from the side, allowing someone to extract or swap cards before sealing it back up.
Concerns of buying single packs have been bandied about for years, with some players wary of purchasing individual packs online or in stores because of previous box mapping concerns. Such swindles are pretty rare, though, and requires knowledge of how mapping works. By contrast, these potential packaging exploits of Modern Masters 2015 are pretty low-tech by comparison. Presumably, instances of people doing this are also rare, but just the specter of impropriety on packs that cost a solid $10 can be enough to give people pause, which ultimately only hurts store owners.
Mind you, neither of these packaging issues reach the levels seen in old sets with not-quite-100% opaque packaging or serial number mapping, and the fact that this new process holds serious promise deserves credit. It merely has a few kinks to iron out. Alas, it just so happens that the first attempt coincides with the other aforementioned set issues here, which doesn’t help the its overall presentation.
Much like a bad movie, such post production issues should have been fixed long before it was sent out for public screening. Otherwise, even if you have a halfway decent product, people will be reluctant to go see it. The same goes for players buying more Modern Masters 2015 after a bad packaging experience.
From the moment the first Modern Masters went out of print – which was fairly quick – players immediately started yearning for a repeat performance. The set contained a massive amount of popular (and valuable) cards from the mid 2000s, complete with both tournament staples and many enjoyable cards that any play group would appreciate. Like a highly successful movie, the first Modern Masters was created with care and precision, with its largest criticisms being that it only ever came out in limited theaters and they charged twice the amount for the luxury of seeing it.
Modern Masters 2015 is that long-awaited sequel who tries so desperately to live up to the hype of its predecessor but, as is often the case, falls short of its own lofty goals. The designers of this reprint set sought to capture the essence of the first one while striving for a much wider distribution, but like taking a cult classic and trying to turn it into a summer blockbuster, they did so at the cost of some of the creativity and value that made the first one so beloved.
It’s not at Modern Masters 2015 is a bad sequel – it’s no Highlander 2 – but it also never reaches the same level of acclaim the first one had. While the set remains fun to draft, it also has fewer and more uniform deck strategies, which limits the desire to do it repeatedly.
What’s more, the Magic player base collectively complained about the high price point of the packs of the original Modern Masters, but Modern Masters 2015 goes a step beyond that, charging you even more for less guaranteed good cards. Sure, this set will help stabilize some of the higher end cards of the Modern format (for a while), and it may even do the one thing these sets were always intended to do: cause the price of some staple cards to drop. But that’s small comfort for those who dish out precious money to get pennies on the dollar in return.
So, at the film’s end and the credits rolling, is this sequel worth it? For the average drafter or casual player, the sad answer is no. We enjoyed our experience, but we would not do another MM2. For groups like ours, you’re much better off drafting something like a normal set or a box of Conspiracy if you can find it. Not only will you have better odds for your money, but you’ll be able to do it at a third of the cost. For tournament players, the prospects aren’t much better. If you are insistent on spending the money on the hopes of those chase cards, you will have to at least accept the very real possibility that you won’t nearly get your money’s worth. On average, a box of Modern Masters 2015 is not going to net you any profit. For every Tarmogoyf out there, there’s also a Comet Storm. Fair warning.
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Photo Credits: Grease and Indiana Jones poster by Paramount Studios; The Matrix and Superman II by Warner Brothers Studios; Jaws by Universal Studios; Webcomic by Cardboard Crack; graphs by MTGGoldfish; Jar-Jar Binks by Walt Disney Pictures; Captain Planet by Wikia.