There are no active ads.

Masters 25 – Our favorite cards from Magic’s 25th anniversary set

by Ron Duwell | March 17, 2018March 17, 2018 1:00 pm PST

Magic the Gathering turns 25 years old this year, so naturally, this means Wizards of the Coast will be printing a Masters set. Dolla dolla bill ya’ll. Gotta look profitable for Disney once Hasbro puts the company up on the market. Oh, you know Disney is interested in Magic and D&D, don’t kid yourself!

Masters sets mean reprints of classic cards, fun draft environments, new art, and lots and lots of entitled whining over the card selection from those who think they know better! Can’t wait!

My opinion with Masters sets is that I take them where they take me. I have no expectations of what needs to be printed, and as long as I’m able to enjoy a solid draft environment, I’m pleased with the results. Modern Masters 2017 was a blast, especially once everyone found out how to jam Dinrova Horror into any color combination and still win, and Iconic Masters, while not reprinting that many iconic cards, turned out to be a far more involved and evolving set than many gave it credit for.

Of course, we only had Ixalan at the time for comparison, and anything will look good in that situation.

For the Masters 25, Wizards of the Coast promised at least one card from every set, and that is exactly what they have delivered. From Alpha all the way to Rivals of Ixalan, the set has the ultimate task of combining 25 years of a game into a selection of 250 cards. This takes balance, consistency with mechanics, and no doubt a whole lot of negotiations and compromises.

I won’t complain about what cards didn’t make the cut. Again, I don’t have expectations. I like what I see, and once I finally draft it, I can only imagine what I’m going to take. Here are my favorite cards and what I’m most excited to open.

We’ll just get this out of the way. I am thrilled that these two cards made the cut.

When you think about the history of Magic, the past half-year doesn’t exactly come to mind. However Ixalan and Rivals of Ixalan have earned their place in Magic lore, and I think Wizards of the Coast made two really good picks at common, mostly because they are cards have the potential to become value staples in future Masters and Core sets.

Dusk Legion Zealot is a classic Black card. You get a creature out of him, but more importantly, he draws you a card. However, unlike the infinitely exploitable Elvish Visionary, Black is going to demand a little something extra for your card advantage. 1 life isn’t much to pay to go up a card though, and in proper decks where life totals don’t matter all that much, this card has the ability to put you far ahead for just two mana.

Likewise, Colossal Dreadmaw is about as basic as they come. The card has been the target of relentless ire now that it holds the record for most printings within a six month period (that being THREE sets in a row), but I like it. It’s just so basic and simple, just how Green prefers it. If you want a 6/6 trample creature, you gotta pay six mana. Cut and dry. There are other cards out there like Rhox Maulers or Lifecraft Cavalry that can get you a 6/6 trample for 5 mana if you meet certain requirements, but in a pinch when you can’t meet those requirements, I’ll gladly take the consistency of just one more mana.

That makes two good choices at common from the two most recent sets, even if they aren’t even close to the strongest in Masters 25. The inclusion of Rivals of Ixalan’s Ravenous Chupacabra also tickles my fancy.

It’s going to be fun to see how Magic’s biggest current threat stands up against the biggest threats of the past.

And speaking of threats and big, dumb, Green bruisers, Woolly Lox appearing in this set makes all the sense in the world. Khans of Tarkir is the most iconic expansion of the past half-decade, since I’ve started playing again at least, and the Morph mechanic needs some strong backing if it wants to stand out.

Woolly Loxodon is essentially a Green removal spell attached to a massive creature if played properly. It sucks when the Morph gets eaten, but a 6/7 for six mana is a great rate, especially when it ambushes an unsuspecting wimp.

Likewise, Khans also shows up big with another of its most popular cards, Ruthless Ripper. This card acts in a similar function as Woolly Loxodon, but instead of leaving behind a huge threat, it triggers 2 points of life loss. That’s not as valuable as a 6/7 creature, but the fact that its Morph trigger is so easy to pull off makes this a deadly card.

Ruthless Ripper also benefits from being dropped down to the common, making now Pauper legal. Yikes!

And before I move on from what seems like just picking Black and Green cards…

Always, now and forever. Magic just wouldn’t be the same without Rancor.

I’ve focused mostly on cards that I’m familiar with since I’ve only been back into Magic for the past three years. Dauntless Cathar is another recent card from Shadows Over Innistrad that I’ve always been fond of, and it too seems to have the makings of a common White staple that we’ll see in these kinds of sets over the years.

3/2 for three mana is pretty basic, but when you consider that this card can come back from the graveyard as a tiny flyer, that’s just a lot of value.

Finally, I think we can close out the new cards with what is a very nice choice for the White and Blue color combination, Cloudblazer.

Cloudblazer is a wonder and a joy in a White and Blue control deck, delivering a solid flying creature, two cards, and 2 life for just five mana. I’m sad that Wizards of the Coast didn’t fill the slot with Reflector Mage, but Cloudblazer is a close second for my favorite White and Blue gold card since I got back into Magic.

Time for an oldie, Stangg is being reprinted in Masters 25. Stangg is the essential card I would put in my decks as a kid. His original art was was killer, my main reason for liking him as a small lad, and he also appears in Green and Red, generally my favorite color combination.

Nowadays, he’s only as powerful as an uncommon, so the demotion for him is nothing to really complain about. Six mana for 6/8 worth of stats across two creatures is a fair deal, but the problem with Stangg is that both creatures are vulnerable to removal, and when one goes, the other also goes with it. The art also isn’t as flawless as the original Stangg’s, but then again… not a lot of Magic cards are.

Just look at this beastly knight.

This leads us into our first Red card, which is one I play with quite often. I’m not so sure how it will hold up in a game of Limited, but Eidolon of the Great Revel has become a superstar in the Magic world over the past five years now that it has found a safe and secure spot in both Modern and even Legacy Burn decks.

Seriously, this card eats cantrip and elf decks alive, painfully burning opponents with each and every spell they cast. Be careful though, it can hit you too, meaning you’ll have to keep the pressure up once this hits the battlefield.

Well… alternate win cons are always great, and this is one of the more fun ones since I started playing. It’s better this than having Approach of the Second Sun or Revel in Riches pop up again. Triskaidekaphobia is all about keeping drafts from becoming dull. It might not be an exciting reprint, but in a game of Limited Magic, it’s is just loads of fun.

Blink and ETB are always huge in Masters sets, and these cards are perfect for getting the most out of a card like Urbis Protector. Then you can laugh as you send in an army of 4/4 flyers.

As for cards I’ve never played with, this is one that caught my eye immediately!

Whoa, man! Sure, you have to sack creatures, but this guy can either win you the game on the spot or gain you back enough life. Masters 25 combines this guy with the likes of Ball Lightning, Genju of the Spires, and Chartooth Cougar in his own colors alone. Pump spells send Brion’s ability over the top, and at common, Act of Treason transforms from a barely playable wasted pick into an absolute game changer.

This could be my favorite card in the set, if not for this other card I’m vaguely familiar with.

Me and my Greenies. This one might be a better card in Constructed than in Limited, but even then, a free 2/2 creature every turn is nothing to scoff at. On top of that, those 2/2 creatures also act as a pseudo-removal spell at instant speed once a few turns go by.

Ramp into Master of the Wild Hunt quickly with Arbor Elf and then boost his value by drafting a lot of Timberpack Wolves. Can’t go wrong with this dude in your deck.

Iwamori is another nasty Green threat with a downside is somewhat negated in Limited. Masters 25 has a lot of Legendary creatures, sure, but your opponent has to have drafted one from the limited selection of cards, and then, that card has to be in their hands when Iwamori his the battlefield.

Circumstances happen when he gets blown out, but most of the time, you’ll be getting yourself a 5/5 trample for just four mana.

This one seems like a lot of fun. Sure, you run the risk of falling behind on mana to an unfortunate Lightning Bolt, but this is a very versatile card that has many uses. When played on turn-1, it’s a one-turn-slower Delver of Secrets that can put you far ahead of your opponent’s life total. When played at the end of a game, when there are enough lands already on the battlefield, it’s a 3/2 flyer that can close out a match and never really die.

It’s immune to board wipes, invulnerable to most removal when not a creature, and it can come back again and again and again.

Promise of Bunrei seems a little janky, but with art like that, I’d be willing to give this card a chance. Four 1/1 flying creatures is nothing to laugh at when the game is coming to a close. They block well, attack well, and with a pump spell like Trumpet Blast… watch out.

Get a creature, bounce a creature, clean and simple tempo play.

Okay, I lied. I have a few cards I wanted to see, Siege Rhino among them. However, I think Wizards of the Coast learned its lesson when it comes to printing that card… in that you shouldn’t do it ever again. Great card but a little too strong. I wasn’t expecting to see it nor do I think it should have been included.

Instead, Khans of Tarkir has a perfect card that I would have loved to play with. While I did a bit of constructed with Khans, I missed out on playing Limited games, and Wingmate Roc is the stuff of legends lurking just beyond my window of knowledge.

Of all the cards I’ve played with and know, this is the one I wanted to see most appear in the set. No, it’s not dying for a reprint, nor is it seeing Modern play, but man… just once I want to open Wingmate Roc in a pack of Magic cards.

The other card is a bit of an oversight from Wizard’s of the Coast, I believe.

How can you celebrate 25 years of Magic without one of its most iconic cards from the original set? Dark Ritual is fine if not janky in Limited, and I can understand why so many other Alpha cards were neglected. They are either too powerful or too useless.

However, Shivan Dragon is still a very viable Magic card. No, it’s not that impressive by today’s standards, but even at uncommon, it’s a playable card that fits into any Green/Red Monsters deck or Blue/Red Control deck.

Heck, a 5/5 flyer with Firebreathing fits into just about any deck!

Taking a long shot with this guess, but the only reason I imagine Shivan Dragon isn’t turning up in Masters 25 is that he might be making an appearance in Dominaria. If it appeared here, it might put Colossal Dreadmaw’s record in jeopardy, and seeing how that’s Wizards of the Coast’s new favorite card, that’s a record that needs protecting.

I hope I didn’t bellyache too much. Masters 25 looks like a ton of fun, and if I can draft just one Brion Stoutarm deck, I’ll be pleased with it. It’s available now after a March 16 release earlier this week.


Ron Duwell

Ron has been living it up in Japan for the last decade, and he has no intention of leaving this technical wonderland any time soon. When he's not...

Advertisement