Price of Progress: Saved by the Box Toppers

Ultimate Masters the Masters set to end all Masters sets… literally. When Ultimate Masters was announced a widespread panic arose among the community – the end of Masters sets for the foreseeable future, how could Wizards of the Coast do this to the players? Would this be the promised end though? Could Wizards deliver a Masters set that had both the right amount of staples and playable cards along with the value being there? With previous Masters sets having bombed over the past few years players were skeptical of this being the end all be all set to come from Wizards. However, Wizards promised a set to remember and they definitely delivered that promise.

A new concept of chase card was created for Ultimate Masters, the Box Topper. Box Toppers added a new value that had never before been seen in a masters set, or any set for that matter. You as a buyer were guaranteed that if you bought a sealed box of Ultimate Masters that you would receive one of the Box Toppers sealed within the top of the box. These Box Toppers were a 1 of 40 possible card chance and they were foil and full art. Cards like Liliana of the Veil, Snapcaster Mage, and Emrakul, the Aeons Torn were some of the possibilities just to name a few. How could these Box Toppers not just add insane value to what looked like already and insane set? Would these Box Toppers be the turning point in value of this set like we had seen from the Masterpiece sets of the past?

Liliana of the Veil – Box Topper

Snapcaster Mage – Box Topper

Emrakul, the Aeons Torn – Box Topper

The cost of Ultimate Masters boxes instantly skyrocketed to new heights with pre-orders being sold out in minutes. Here at ABU Games we sold out of our initial allocation of pre-orders in just 7 minutes. We were one of the first major stores to have the product online and for sure one of the best initial prices available. The MSRP of the box value is $335, but many stores had boxes for as low as $240 initially. As quickly as stores could put pre-orders up they were being sold out. This set was gaining so much momentum in such a short time! Before the full set was released pre-order prices had climbed to very close to MSRP or over in some places. Projected as on of the best Masters sets of all time, this set definitely put that expectation to the test.

Let’s talk about one of the most important topics of this Ultimate Masters set: value. Initially, the powerhouse cards that were previewed made this set seem like it would be pure bricks of gold made out of cardboard. My initial instinct when it came to pre-ordering was to buy buy buy! They say a picture is worth a thousand words, well I put that saying to the test! I pre-ordered 4 boxes of Ultimate Masters from a small game store here in the area at $240 a piece. ABU only allowed us to pre-order 1 box as an employee, I got one of those too, but still have yet to pick it up because of my experience opening the first 4 boxes. At first glance, the Mythics in this set are absolute fire! They are amazing staples for many formats: Karn Liberated, Tarmogoyf, Snapcaster Mage, and Cavern of Souls just to name a few. With each box containing 2-4 Mythics the value was, or could be, there depending on the Mythics you pulled. Many of the rares were equally as impressive, but some were complete trash on the opposite end. With rares like Talrand, Sky Summoner, Desolate Lighthouse, and Stirring Wildwood, the set’s value was scary how bad a packs value could be. One of the saving graces of the set was the uncommons – cards like Eternal Witness, Kitchen Finks, and Lava Spike. The set’s value, for the most part, is there, but the real question is “will you pull value?”.

Karn Liberated


Cavern of Souls

Talrand, Sky Summoner

Desolate Lighthouse

Stirring Wildwood

Eternal Witness

Kitchen Finks

Lava Spike

Opening my boxes of Ultimate Masters, Started out as pure excitement, with my first pack including a Foil Emrakul, the Aeons Torn and a Snapcaster Mage. That excitement turned quickly into a sinking disposition at best as I opened more packs. A series of awful rares showed their faces. Magus of the Bazaar, Wall of Reverence, and Tasigur, the Golden Fang were among the few. I can’t say the entire box was bad because it wasn’t. There were quite a cards of worth in the rare and Mythic slots that were of decent value and were staples of the Modern and Legacy formats. Ancient Tomb, Back to Basics, and Kozilek, Butcher of Truth were some of my best-valued cards pulled. Still, only 2 mythics and the 1 foil mythic were pulled out of this box. Overall, it was a good box, or what I would consider a good box from opening up some of the Masters sets of past. I hadn’t had these good feelings about a box since 2017’s Modern Masters set.

My 4 Boxes of Ultimate Maters I purchased.

Wow! What a First pack! I got a Snapcaster Mage and a foil Emrakul, the Aeons Torn in the same pack. Double Mythic for the win!

With such a high MSRP, and my initial investment of purchasing the boxes would I hit my value? I pulled so many notable rares and mythic in just the first box – could the hype really be real? I had 3 boxes to open and still hadn’t opened up the Box Topper from the first box. These questions burned in my mind as I tore into the Box Topper, a Maelstrom Pulse. Ok, not the worst Box Topper, but far from the best. The initial investment of $240 was now put to the test as I added up the Rare and Mythic amounts. My total came out to $270.47 without the box topper, crazy… I thought I had pulled insanity in just my first box. With the additional value of the Box Topper, my first box came out to 307.04, almost $28 under what a box at MSRP would have been. I had made $67.04 in value off the box, that’s not bad, but with such a high MSRP it felt bad. Why did Wizards feel the need to put such a price tag on this set? With other Masters sets selling for around $100 cheaper it just didn’t make sense to me.

This was the Box Topper from my first box I opened, a Maelstrom Pulse. 

Here are all of the rares and Mythics I pulled from my first box, they aren’t in any particular order.

And the Box Topper for the save, my second one was Temporal Manipulation… I wish I could manipulate some of these pulls…

With the pulls I had from my first box I felt good ripping into my second box, let’s see what this set had to offer! I shouldn’t have asked that question, this box’s value was far different from the first. Cringe-worthy is the best word I can to describe the packs of this second box. Pack after pack, rare after rare, my heart sank with each rip of the packaging. Seize the Day, Seismic Assault, Desolate Lighthouse, Sovereigns of Lost Alara and even my favorite Goblin, Squee, Goblin Nabob wrenched my stomach with each opening. Foil Ancient Tomb! The saving grace of this box, I was finally back in the value. The other mythics in the box were decent – Dark Depths, Platinum Emperion, and Bitterblossom. But would the value be there in the end? With this box, I didn’t hesitate to open the Box Topper. It was a Temporal Manipulation, a middle of the value-range pull. As I quickly added up the total value of the Rares and Mythics from the box that sinking feeling in my gut returned. $201.62 was the total, I had to stop for a moment to catch my breath, I hate losing money and was instantly upset at myself for purchasing so much. Adding the box topper in saved the total value of the box at $261.62 a mere $21.62 above what I had paid for the box. With the MSRP being $335 though that was a loss of $73.38. I was speechless again. Could this sets value really be that skewed, are these box toppers the only saving grace for value in the set?

My second set of Rares and Mythics from this meh box…

As I gripped the next box there was a slight shake in my hand, “what had I done”, kept ringing throughout my mind. I tore into the packaging and set the Box Topper aside, I opened the first pack. To my joy, an Engineered Explosives was awaiting me behind the trash common foil. This box felt far different than the first, but the mix of poop Rares and good cards was still very present. This box had some awesome stuff in it; a Tarmogoyf, Noble Hierarch, and a Phyrexial Altar were just a few of the Rares and Mythics pulled. With the bad taste of the last box still in my mouth, I was still skeptical pack after pack. It was almost as though I couldn’t be excited about the few good cards because I dreaded opening the .50 cent rares every other pack. When I finally finished opening up the regular packs I was satisfied with what I had pulled, but now came the Box Topper. As I ripped into the packaging I imagined how amazing it would be to open a Snapcaster Mage or a Liliana of the Veil Box Topper, but I pulled a Platinum Emperion. Was this sets value either in the box or in the Topper? It seemed as though if I opened alright in my box the Box Topper would be terrible, and vice versa. This box totaled $322.90 in value and $363.40 after we added the value of the Box Topper. I had done it, I had made over MSRP on a box! I had made $123.40 in value off this box for what I had initially paid for it, but only $28.40 over MSRP.

Platinum Emperion the third Box Topper I opened out of this case.

The third set of Mythics and Rares from this case. Noble and Tarmogoyf are hangin’ out there in the back… probably hiding from my last box pulls.

Last but certainly not least, Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre was my 4th and final Box Topper from this case.

Finally, I tore into my last box with high hopes, but even higher wants. I wanted a box like the last one and to feel like I didn’t make a mistake in purchasing so much of a product that was hyped up to be the best Masters set of all time. This box’s packs toyed with my ever fading emotions. Woodfall Primus, Temporal Manipulation, Disrupting Shoal, Noble Hierarch, Visions of Beyond, Ancient Tomb, the cycle of garbage to gold went on like this pack after pack. At least this box had the 3 Mythics in it, the previously mentioned Temporal Manipulation, Platinum Emperion, and Emrakul, Aeons Torn were the others. This box seemed to have a very graveyard oriented theme with other rares like Entomb, Goryo’s Vengeance, and Demonic Tutor in the mix alongside the Eldrazi just begging to be reanimated! I opened my last Box Topper, it was a Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre, right on par with the rest of the box. I had opened up all 3 Eldrazi Titans in the box. I wasn’t exactly sure where the value would fall on this box, it felt a lot like the 3rd box I opened that had such a great value, but I just didn’t know for sure until I added it all up. $228.36 was the value before the Box Topper, and then it went up to $286.22 after the Topper was added. $46.22 over what I had paid but $48.78 under MSRP. It blew my mind how much these Box Toppers added in value, but still compared to the MSRP of the product all of the boxes fell short on the secondary market.

I was done, my case of Ultimate Masters had been opened. As I sat there contemplating everything I was at an impasse. The value was there and I had netted $258.28 in overall value after my initial $970 purchase, but I was far under the projected MSRP value. Many of my friends and even co-workers had paid close to MSRP, and I instantly felt bad for them. I feel like I pulled a decent value overall between my boxes, but there was such a random spread of value. It very much felt like if the box had value inside of it the Box Topper wouldn’t be the best. I know there is really no way of proving that to be true on a large scale, or even that actually being a possibility, but it’s definitely one of those lingering thoughts that stick with you. Still, my overall experience opening this product had an equal spread of emotions. Anger, sadness, excitement, and happiness all filled me as I opened these boxes. As a consumer I was content, I pulled what I considered value. Would I have liked more… yeah, but I think as far as boxes go this is a pretty good example of the field.