Throne of Eldraine will surely be remembered as the set where Wizards of the Coast pushed the envelope on product mix design to new heights.
Stepping well beyond the classic booster boxes of 36 packs, players looking to engage with this set have been forced to parse an unbelievably complex product mix including:
- Regular Boosters
- Theme Boosters
- Collector Boosters
- Planeswalker Decks
- Bundle (formerly Fat Packs)
- Brawl Decks
- Deluxe Collection
- Promo Packs
- Holiday Bundle
Wow. Even for those of us fully invested in the brand that is a LOT to swallow.
For those of us interested in the financial side of Magic: The Gathering, it behooves us to try and understand the math behind these shifts in the product mix and how they are likely to impact the price behavior of the various kinds of cards that are now being dangled in front of players, collectors and speculators.
Overall, the two most relevant considerations here are the new Collector Boosters and their impact on and differentiation from the cards found in regular boosters.
Within regular boosters, the new foil drop rate unveiled for Core2020 continues as 1 in 45 cards (or a 33.4% chance of opening one in any one booster). Previously, the foil drop rate (this is counting all foils of all rarities) was 1 in 67 cards (which results in a 22.5% chance of opening one in any one booster). In practical terms this means that pack foils are now 50% less rare than they used to be, and in theory, equally at all rarities.
At the same time Wizards has introduced three additional card treatments to the Standard booster mix:
- Showcase frames: These are brand new to Magic: The Gathering, and are stylistically specific to each set, relatively sparsely used, with two mythics and five rares in Throne of Eldraine. Showcase frames exist at common and uncommon as well and all of the cards that come in these frames also exist in regular frames.
- Borderless Planeswalkers: This is the style we saw most recently in the Mythic Edition planeswalkers starting in fall of 2018, through to Mythic Edition: War of the Spark. Occur at roughly the same drop rates as the showcase frames do for other mythics, and are available for all three planeswalkers in the set, and only those cards. In Throne of Eldraine, this means Oko, Thief of Crowns, The Royal Scions and Garruk, the Huntmaster. As with the showcase cards, each planeswalker also comes in a regular version. Notably the borderless versions also feature alternate art.
- Extended Art: The style of this treatment is very, very close to the Borderless planeswalkers, to the point where using different terms for them has been quite confusing for players. The most important detail here is that extended art rares and mythics ONLY appear in the Collector Boosters, which includes all 48 rares and 10 mythics that were not included in the showcase cards/borderless mythics. Let’s divert for a moment to get things straight about that product.
There are only four ways to get your hands on collector boosters:
- As a free buy-a-box promotion at your local LGS, along with the foil version of Kenrith
- Via direct purchase from online vendors or LGS owners who happened to have allotments in excess of their BAB program needs
- Purchase of the direct sale, online only set, the Throne of Eldraine: Deluxe Collection which sold for $449 and included 16 Collector Boosters
- Purchase of the forthcoming Holiday Gift Bundle, which will include one Collector Booster pack, likely at a $50 price point Nov 15th
The composition of the Collector Boosters is uniquely complex. To put it as simply as possible:
So these Collectors Boosters have 16 cards. 9 slots are taken up by foil commons and uncommons from Throne of Eldraine regular boosters, and they can be either showcase or regular frames. The single “ancillary” slot offers up any of the unique cards from the Planeswalker decks or newly minted Brawl decks, or a fairly rare non-foil version of Kenrith, the Returned King. Many of these cards are bulk, with Arcane Signet and Kenrith being notable exceptions. The foil token slot can mostly be ignored as those also appear in regular boosters.
The most interesting slots in the $25-30 collector boosters are the remaining five slots:
- Foil/Rare Mythic Slot: any foil rare or mythic in ELD in any treatment
- Non-foil Extended Art: any extended art rare or mythic, non-foil
- 3x Special Frame cards: showcase cards of all rarities and borderless planeswalkers. Also notable as the ONLY product that has showcase non-foil commons. Yes, really.
This is where we run head first into the extreme variance that comes from creating premium versions of every rare and mythic in the set, and a pile of the commons and uncommons. Collector Booster packs can vary in value from $10 to hundreds of dollars, depending on how lucky you get in these slots most likely to cough up a rare version of a multi-format staple. In magical Christmasland you could in theory open a foil extended art The Great Henge, a non-foil Emry, Lurker of the Loch and a borderless Oko, Thief of Crowns, and be having a pretty great day. On the other hand, you could also open a pack full of draft chaff and end up pretty disappointed.
Now, if you’re looking for hot specs, one way to dodge the variance in the Collector Boosters is to focus on the cards that are exclusive to those boosters and compare them to your best opportunities in regular packs so that you can try to optimize your spec basket once peak supply sets in. To do that properly, we’re going to need to get our hands dirty with some extensive math.
Throne of Eldraine Drop Rates
To really get a handle on our best opportunities with Throne of Eldraine we need to understand how often each card treatment shows up in both regular and collector booster packs vs. the alternative treatments.
Because Wizards of the Coast hasn’t provided any guidance on this aspect of the product mix, MTGPrice reached out to some of our larger vendor partners in the United States and Europe to gather data on drop rates from teams that opened thousands of boxes over the last few weeks. Suffice to say, the drop rates in this set are anything but obvious.
Just off the top, box opening data for ELD suggests that foil commons and uncommons are actually of equal rarity in regular booster packs. We suggest this may be due to the foil commons being syphoned off to fill the 9 foil common/uncommon slots in the Collector Boosters. I’m willing to bet that the gap is made up based on the likely # in the CB packs, but haven’t actually run the numbers yet on that.
Now, some quick facts about showcase rares and mythics:
Showcase non-foil rares appear at a ~1:2.5 ratio vs. regular versions of the same rares in ELD booster packs.
Showcase non-foil mythics appear at a ~1:7.5 ratio vs. mythic versions of the same mythics in ELD booster packs.
So right away we see some useful math emerging. Showcase rares and mythics are significantly more rare than regular versions. Unlike War of the Spark Japanese boxes where the alt-art planeswalkers dropped in roughly 50% of packs, showcase rares are 60% more rare than their regular versions and showcase mythics are 87% more rare than their regular versions.
For example Fae of Wishers alt-arts, which are significantly better looking, also only drop 40 times for every 100 copies of the regular ones. Likewise Brazen Borrower non-foil showcase copies are 3x more rare in comparison to their regular versions their rare faerie cousins.
If that wasn’t confusing enough, showcase foils have different drop ratios than the non-foils, and they pull in opposite directions depending on the rarity.
Showcase foil rares appear at a 1.35:1 ratio vs. regular foil versions of the same rares in ELD booster packs. That means Murderous Rider showcase foils should be less rare than regular pack foils!
Showcase foil mythics however appear at a 1:2.5 ratio vs. mythic regular foil versions of the same mythics in ELD booster packs.
That means that foil showcase Brazen Borrower and Realm-Cloaked Giant (the only showcase mythics) are very, very rare indeed.
Follow me here:
Now remember, foils are 50% more common than they used to be before Core2020.
Foil mythics should now be dropping at a rate of about .216 per regular booster box of ELD, which works out to about 1.08 foil mythics per 5 boxes. That means you need 75 boxes to find a specific foil mythic (1 of 15).
Since showcase mythics drop once for every 2.5 regular foil mythics, you need ~187.50 boxes to find a specific one. So if you were wondering, $24 might be a pretty solid price if you can think of a reason to play a foil showcase Realm-Cloaked Giant.
As a point of comparison, Masterpiece Inventions dropped 1/144 packs vs. 1/216 for a given foil mythic at the time, and there were 30 of them in that set, so a specific one appeared every 4320 packs, or 120 boxes. That makes showcase foil mythics roughly 56% MORE RARE THAN MASTERPIECES INVENTIONS/EXPEDITIONS. Think about what that will mean down the road if one of the mythic showcases in Theros: Beyond Death or Ikoria is a 4of card for Modern or a sick EDH staple and the drop rates remain the same.
It gets better.
Let’s say WoTC produces roughly 5,000,000 boxes of ELD. That would make the set a 200M+ product, which is probably accurate +/- 50M given that MTG as a brand is likely worth $550-650M USD/annum at present.
If you need 187.50 boxes to find a foil showcase mythic, then there are roughly only 26.7k copies of each in the world, and perhaps only 65% (17.3k) of them are in English. That’s compared to about 67,000 regular foil mythics (43.6k English).
Now, vendors were saying they thought that the Collector Booster boxes were 10x more rare than the regular booster boxes, but based on various vendor interviews, I actually think it’s closer to 20x, given that it was only printed in 2 languages and only for a single wave spread across a handful of linked releases.
If that’s anywhere close to true, there might only be 250,000 collector booster boxes in the world, which makes sense given how fast they sold out most places, and how many vendors couldn’t get their allotments in various corners of the globe. You can further confirm their rarity by checking the inventory levels of the foil extended art rares and mythics on TCGPlayer.com and most of the major vendors in the US. Levels are way lower than Kaladesh Masterpiece Inventions were at this point in their release cycle and there isn’t any easy way for vendors to restock given that very few of these Collector Booster cards are being opened at MagicFest weekends.
Some additional napkin math tells us that it likely takes 5 Collector Booster boxes to find a specific foil extended art rare. As such, there are likely only about 50K of each extended foil full art, and only about 80% of them are in English (the rest are Japanese). That’s 40k English copies. That would mean there may be as few as 6250 foil extended art mythics which explains why they are already in VERY short supply despite us being in a mass cracking period. Using similar math, we have previously calculated that there were likely something like 30-35k of the Masterpiece Expeditions or Inventions, to further that comparison.
So in summary, my best estimate of the relative rarity of the rarest cards from Throne of Eldraine looks something like this:
6.25k foil extended art mythics (90.5% more rare than pack foil mythics)
26.7k foil showcase/borderless mythics (60% more rare than pack foil mythics)
50k foil extend art rares (33% more rare than pack foil mythics)
66.7k pack foil mythics
Now, for argument’s sake, let’s recalculate where we land if Collector Booster boxes really are 1:10 vs. regular booster boxes. That would give us this relative rarity spread:
12.50k foil extended art mythics (81% more rare than pack foil mythics)
26.7k foil showcase/borderless mythics (60% more rare than pack foil mythics)
66.7k pack foil mythics
100k foil extend art rares (50% less rare than pack foil mythics)
What Have We Learned
Throne of Eldraine has a ridiculously complex product mix.
- Hopefully WotC will dial it back down the road, because this is just silly.
- Showcase commons from Eldraine are worth keeping an eye on as they are way more rare than they should be
- Showcase foils are less rare than pack foil rares
- Foil Extended Art, borderless planeswalkers and showcase mythics are likely more rare than Masterpiece Expeditions or Inventions.
- Depending on what print run you believe Collector Boosters have, they too are either close to as rare as a Masterpiece, or 50% less rare than a pack foil mythic (but still far more rare than regular pack foil rares).
- Multi-format staples or single format superstars are likely to exhibit solid ROI, with the rarest versions moving fastest and hardest.
- As of today, the market is having trouble keeping extended art foils in stock on key cards, and I question whether the additional inventory coming throughout the fall will be enough to fill in the gaps.
- We’re still running more math over here to refine this model, so if you think you have relevant info to share, reach out to help us keep things updated!
Let’s check back in on all of this in January 2020, as we prepare our strategy for the inevitable Theros: Beyond Death premium product mix. Until then, happy hunting!
James Chillcott is the CEO of ShelfLife.net, The Future of Collecting, Senior Partner at Advoca, a designer, adventurer, toy art fanatic and an avid Magic player and collector since 1994.