All posts by Cliff Daigle

I am a father, teacher, cuber and EDH fanatic. My joy is in Casual and Limited formats, though I dip a toe into Constructed when I find something fun to play. I play less than I want to and more than my schedule should really allow. I can easily be reached on Twitter @WordOfCommander. Try out my Busted Uncommons cube at

Post-Pandemic Preparations

We haven’t had a MagicFest/Grand Prix event since Lyon in early March of 2020. Paper Magic is starting to reopen in some places, with different levels of precautions in place depending on local governments. There are places in the world that didn’t need to shut down local stores for long, and paper didn’t really dwindle there. 

For most of the world, though, paper games are a relic of the before-time, and hopefully will be a thing that comes back soon. Commander players are making do on Spelltable, and Magic Online plus Magic Arena scratches the itch for most Constructed or Limited players. 

However, as long-term thinkers, we have to consider what is going to happen when paper play returns. What formats should we be focused on? What staples can we get now? What versions carry the best prospects?

To be clear, I don’t have any inside information about when paper events will start again. Conventions are starting to make plans, the World Series of Poker is planning on events in November, and it looks like (oh please) schools will be approaching a new normal when the fall comes around.

When it comes to paper events starting again, I don’t think Commander is going to have as huge an impact as Constructed formats. Commander has been driving prices for more than a year now, and when combined with the collectors that have been targeting older cards, you get the recent increases that we’ve seen. People have been buying new cards and getting the rarest versions of cards for their Commander decks for some time, so I’m not expecting local stores reopening to bump those prices significantly. Likewise with GP-level events: the Command Zone probably won’t be a huge price driver either.

So what I’m thinking about more are the constructed formats: Standard, Pioneer, Modern, and Legacy. Standard is on the cusp of rotation, but if I’m thinking that paper events start again in the fall, or perhaps even this summer, where do I want to be? At rotation, we’re losing Throne of Eldraine, Ikoria, Theros: Beyond Death and Core 2021. That’s a whole lot of cards we don’t want to pick up if we’re Standard-focused.

We don’t know all of Strixhaven yet, but we know that the Triomes will be leaving Standard, along with Fabled Passage. So as a starter, if I’m predicting Standard’s return, I want to be picking up the ten Pathways right now, as they are the only game in town for mana fixing. It won’t stay that way, but they are likely to be good enough to see play, and jumping from $3-$4 to $8-$9 seems reasonable. I wish I could have a better sense of which Pathways to focus on, but there’s too much unknown information with the sets still to come.

Faceless Haven and Crawling Barrens are the only creature-lands that are legal in Standard, until some new ones come along. Faceless is at $1.50 and Barrens is only fifty cents, and both would be buylist plays if purchases in large amounts. Right now there isn’t a big demand for either, but that has the potential to change, especially once the Castles rotate as utility lands. The Temples are not a spec target for me, because of the additional supply from the original Theros block.

Remember that Pioneer was announced as a format in October of 2019, and in-person play ended about five months later. The format barely had a chance to get set up! During those five months, everything was all about Pioneer from a finance perspective, and when paper events start again, I think that’s one of the main places we should be looking. Modern is a more expensive format, but those who love it, really love it. Same with Legacy, only for an even smaller group of players.

With all three of those formats, it’s MTGO or bust right now, and luckily, we’ve got good metagame data and all three are nonrotating formats. 

With Pioneer, there’s one card I’m really staring at, because it started to spike hard when Pioneer was getting started, but it’s fallen back down significantly: Sylvan Caryatid.

It’s only in ten percent of decks, but it’s the full playset when it shows up. No one dares shave on one of the best mana accelerators ever. A wide range of decks want to play this, and while Llanowar Elves and Elvish Mystic are also in a lot of decks, there’s a lot of those cards out there. (Yes, Mystic is on the Remastered sheet, and I’ll get to that category in a moment.) There has not yet been a meaningful reprint of the Caryatid, and as a rare plus being the buy-a-box promo, supply is constrained. Right now on TCG there’s a lot of copies in the $5 range, and that feels like an easy double-up when events happen in person again.

I’m also very big on one of the more utility creatures in the format: Bonecrusher Giant. Here, though, I am going to call attention to one of the side plots present in the current Magic pantheon: Is Constructed Magic the target audience for non-foil special frame, Showcase, Extended Art, or any other variant? It feels like the answer is yes: Tournament decks cannot play just a few foil cards for fear of being called out for Marked Cards. We now have a way to have a special version of a card without that version being noticeably warped. So if you’re going to spec on Bonecrusher Giant (good creature plus a removal spell) or Fae of Wishes (only wishboard enabler in the format) or Fabled Passage (only fetchland in the format) I’d advocate going in on the nonfoil special frame.

This includes things like the Time Spiral Remastered Old Border sheet for Elvish Mystic, or Thoughtseize, the second-most-played spell in the format right now. Getting the OB versions for $40ish is very appealing. Keep in mind that there’s other versions under $20 still, both Double Masters and Iconic Masters…but they don’t look as cool. Those versions might well be underpriced when paper launches again, for that matter.

This is not intended to be a comprehensive list of everything that could blow up when paper events start, but a framework for what it would take for that to happen. Do you have some other ideas, some favorite cards? Let me know in the comments, on Twitter, or speak up in the ProTrader Discord!

Cliff (@WordOfCommander) has been writing for MTGPrice since 2013, and is an eager Commander player, Draft enthusiast, and Cube fanatic. A high school science teacher by day, he’s also the official substitute teacher of the MTG Fast Finance podcast. If you’re ever at a GP and you see a giant flashing ‘CUBE DRAFT’ sign, go over, say hi, and be ready to draft.

The Math of Strixhaven

Buckle up, everyone, because Wizards made some unexpected decisions when it comes to the distribution of special frames and foils. This will DEFINITELY affect your buying patterns once the set is out, so let me walk you through how frequently you’re going to see different versions of the cards in the set.

We don’t know exactly all of the cards in the Mystical Archive yet, but we know how many of those cards there are, and therefore how many alternate-art, Japanese-language Mystical Archive cards there are as well. All of this information has been taken from the stream on Thursday and the Collecting Strixhaven article released the same day.

Just to make this easier for me to write, when I say Japanese version, I mean the alternate-art Mystical Archive card. Global refers to the language that the rest of the cards is in.

A few overall things to note:

When it comes to the Mystical Archive spells, there is both a traditional foil treatment and an etched-foil treatment. This applies to both the global and the Japanese. So yes, there’s four foil versions of each Mystical Archive spell to go with two nonfoil versions. (Note that nonfoil Japanese alt-art versions can only be found in Japanese-language Set and Draft boosters.)

Non-foil Mystical Archive spells have a guaranteed slot in Draft Boosters. For that slot, 10/15 openings will be an uncommon, 4/15 will be a rare, and 1/15 will be mythic. That’s how it works out with the 67%/26.4%/6.6% math that we’re told.

Draft Boosters also have a chance for traditional foil Mystical Archive spells, but the exact ratio isn’t known. When I’m able to find that, or some helpful person links it to me in the comments or on Twitter, I’ll update this post.

In Collector Boosters, you’re going to get at least one global Mystical Archive spell and one Japanese Mystical Archive card. Your booster will have a third Mystical Archive card, which has a 50/50 chance for being global or Japanese.

I’m writing this guide before we know all 45 cards that are in the Mystical Archive, but when a card’s rarity is revealed, you should remember that rares will be twice as common as mythics unless they tell us something else specifically, like they did with the Draft Booster slot. This is also why uncommons get their own slot.

With that settled, let’s get into some of the details. Here’s the image Wizards used as a summary, and what the odds are for certain cards. 

Slot #1: Foil-Etched Mystical Archive rare or mythic – With 30 rares and 15 mythics, you’d expect a 1/45 chance for any given card. Turian uses a misleading framing here, saying you can get any of those 45 cards. This is true, but the chances aren’t equal. You have a 1/37.5 chance of pulling a given rare, and a 1/75 chance of getting a specific mythic. If this one is in the global language, then Slot 2 will be a Japanese card, or vice versa. You’ve got a 50/50 chance of this card being global language or Japanese.

Slot #2: Foil-Etched Mystical Archive Uncommon – There are 18 Mystical Archive uncommons, so this is very straightforward. You’re still 50/50 on global vs. Japanese, but the uncommon versions of these cards are going to be impressively easy to use.

Slot #3: Traditional foil Mystical Archive (global or Japanese alternate-art version) rare or mythic rare, borderless mythic rare, or extended-art rare or mythic rare – You’re reading that right. Your third slot is going to have a whole lot of options, each one making the other more rare. We need to break things down here. This could be:

Traditional Global foil for the Mystical Archive (30 rares, 15 mythics)

Traditional Japanese foil for the Mystical Archive (30 rares, 15 mythics)

Foil Extended Art for the rares and mythics of Strixhaven (69 rares, 12 mythics)

Foil Borderless Mythics (9 mythics – the five elder dragons and four planeswalker cards)

Again, the numbers are misleading. It’s not an even 180 cards, and you get one of those. It’s one out of 309, for a given mythic of the assorted types, with your chances of a rare being doubled to 1 in 154.5 packs. 

That’s really rare for any of these, the only slot with Foil Extended Art versions, a throwback to the Commander Legends treatment. This is bonkers. If you’re wondering where Turian got the 48% figure when discussing getting a fourth Mystical Archive card in a single pack, this is where. Take 150/309 and you get 48.54%.

Slot #4: Traditional foil Mystical Archive uncommon – Again, a 1/18 chance in this, very straightforward, there will be lots and lots of the uncommon Mystical Archive cards.

Slot #5: Nonfoil Borderless/Extended Art Rare or Mythic –  With this being nonfoil, some might not care as much, but this slot will have a lot of value because there will be a lot more copies. You’ve got 69 rares and 12 mythics, so you’ve got a 92% chance of pulling a rare and only 8% of all Collector Boosters will have a mythic in this slot.

Slot #6: Nonfoil Extended-Art Rare or Mythic from Commander 2021 – Yes, the five decks are upon us, releasing the same day as Strixhaven itself. There’s a total of 80 cards that are new to Magic in those five Commander decks, and this slot in a Collector Booster will give you an extended-art version of those cards (but nonfoil). The only foils of these new cards are the five ‘face’ commanders, but even the EA versions in this slot are nonfoil. 

Slot #7: Foil Lessons – As colorless cards, there’s going to be some interest in these cards, especially the rare and mythic. We know there’s a total of 20, and we’re given a rough breakdown of the odds: “On average, if you opened six Collector Boosters, you would expect to get a combination of 5 common and/or uncommon Lesson cards, as well as 1 rare or mythic rare Lesson card.” Once I know exactly how many of each rarity there are, I can do a bit more math.

Slot #8: Foil rare or mythic – Pretty standard, but again, 92% to be a rare and 8% to be a mythic. I’m not expecting a lot of value here, or from the rest of the slots which are commons, uncommons, and tokens.

So let’s have a chart, giving us what sorts of cards we’re looking for, which slot of a CB they are in, the percentage for that, and the number of packs to open to get a specific card. Remember that global language refers to the language it was printed in. English will be the most common, but they are also available in French, German, Italian, Japanese, and Spanish. All languages will have Japanese alternate art versions of the Mystical Archive.

Card type/raritySlot numberPercent chance in a single CBNumber of packs to get one particular card (approx)
Global foil etched Mystical Archive Mythic Rare117.5%150
Global foil etched Mystical Archive Rare133%75
Japanese foil etched alt art Mystical Archive Mythic Rare117.5%150
Japanese foil etched alt art Mystical Archive Rare133%75
Global foil etched Mystical Archive Uncommon250%36
Japanese alt art Mystical Archive Uncommon250%36
Global Traditional Foil Mystical Archive Mythic Rare34.8%309
Global Traditional Foil Mystical Archive Rare319.4%154.5
Japanese Traditional Foil Mystical Archive Mythic Rare34.8%309
Japanese Traditional Foil Mystical Archive Rare319.4%154.5
Extended Art Foil Mythic Rare33.8%309
Extended Art Foil Rare344.6%154.5
Borderless Mythic or Planeswalker32.9%309
Global Traditional Foil Mystic Archive  Uncommon450%36
Japanese Traditional Foil Mystic Archive  Uncommon450%36
Nonfoil Borderless or Extended Art Mythic Rare58%150
Nonfoil Borderless or Extended Art Rare592%75
Nonfoil Commander 2021-Exclusive Mythic Rare612.5%80
Nonfoil Commander 2021-Exclusive Rare687.5%40
Nonfoil Mystical Archive UncommonDraft Boosters67%27
Nonfoil Mystical Archive RareDraft Boosters26.4%114
Nonfoil Mystical Archive Mythic RareDraft Boosters6.6%227

For two comparisons from recent sets, you were one in 256 Collector Boosters for a Phyrexian Vorinclex, and one in 400 for a FEA Jeweled Lotus.

So to summarize, that third slot is going to have a FEA rare more than half the time, a Mystical Archive about 40% of the time, and only 7% of Collector Booster packs is going to have a FEA mythic or a borderless card in that slot. FEA mythics, borderless foils, and traditional foil Mystical Archive mythics are all the same rarity in this slot: one in every 309 packs.

Another notable facet of this is that the etched-foil versions of the Mystical Archive will be at least twice as common as the traditional foil Mystical Archive of the same card, requiring roughly twice the number of packs to open to get one particular card. 

I hope this table and this information helps you make good decisions as Strixhaven previews continue. If you found an error, leave me a comment or drop me a line on Twitter.

Cliff (@WordOfCommander) has been writing for MTGPrice since 2013, and is an eager Commander player, Draft enthusiast, and Cube fanatic. A high school science teacher by day, he’s also the official substitute teacher of the MTG Fast Finance podcast. If you’re ever at a GP and you see a giant flashing ‘CUBE DRAFT’ sign, go over, say hi, and be ready to draft.

There’s Other Cards?

While a lot of the attention is rightfully on the old border cards, and the foil versions thereof, we’ve got other cards in the packs of Time Spiral Remastered, a lot of which are relevant cards and needed a fresh injection of copies. Given the focus on the old border cards, and the money being thrown at them, we need to be disciplined and remember that every reprint set offers an opportunity to pick up cards that needed a reprint at their lowest possible prices.

A caveat here about when to buy these cards: By all indications, this is a short-run set. Vendors are selling as of today, and individuals who like to open boxes are getting their product this coming week, exactly when Strixhaven previews begin. I do expect that most of these prices fall further, which makes buying in that much more attractive.

Interestingly, a lot of these cards are reprints of reprints, meaning that the supply has already been increased once or more since original Time Spiral. If it’s been reprinted before, and the price recovered, that makes these solid buys for the most part. We know for sure that demand is high enough to make the price higher eventually, and a low cost plus patience will often lead to value. Buying in at the low point is a core mechanic for what we do.

Venser, Shaper Savant ($6) – This is one of the top non-OB cards in the set, going by EDH inclusion rates. Ten thousand players have registered this online, and countless cubes carry this mega-bouncer as well. This is a pet card for a lot of players, because while some spells can’t be countered, this is just returning to hand, buying you some needed tempo. His price has been as high as $20, and weirdly had a spike to nearly $30 for the original Future Sight version just a few weeks ago. The Modern Masters 2017 reprint never made it above $11, and that is our ceiling. Venser is a rare in this set, and I’m looking for this to drop another couple of dollars before moving in. 

Prismatic Lens (Foil) (75 cents) – You might be wondering why I’m talking about an uncommon here, but the foil from original Time Spiral is $6, the better-art foil from Ultimate Masters is $3, and the reprint in Eternal Masters is $2. I don’t want to buy in before it hits 50 cents, or preferably a quarter, but the value will be there if you like growth. At the least, grab copies for your Commander decks while the card is at its low point. More than 20k decks have done the same online, and that’s why this foil tends to recover its value over time.

Magus of the Moon ($8) – The Iconic Masters version had crept up to nearly $20 when this reprint arrived. Picking this up is a testament to how much paper play you think will happen in the next year or two, as this is a popular Modern sideboard card, with a smattering of Legacy play included. Given that paper play is nonexistent at the moment, I’m really hoping this falls even farther, ideally to under $5. 

Pact of Negation ($18) – Worthwhile to note that there’s already a couple of people on TCG putting this as low as $15, so let’s watch this angle downwards a bit more before diving in. On EDHREC, 10% of all decks that can run this do, more than 25,000 people want a free counterspell in Commander to go with the Modern players who can win this turn and don’t care about five mana next turn. Bonuses to the ones playing Hive Mind! This was available as low at $10 when the first Modern Masters came out, and if this got as low as $10 it would be an excellent pickup going forward. We know it’s got the chops to be a $30 card, and all it’s going to take is a little patience to recover in value.

Akroma’s Memorial ($14 vs $36) – The reprints have been as you’d expect with this card. 

The M13 version was available very cheaply, and while I don’t think it’ll get down to $5 again, it’s easy to see this as being $10 in a couple of weeks. Given that it’s only registered in about 6,000 decks, I’m not expecting to see this grow quickly. Picking up cheap cards and being patient feels good, but I’m not waiting seven years to cash this in. This has a while to fall on TCG, as Card Kingdom has it for much much less right now. Be patient, and pick your spots.

I also want to take a moment and talk about some other cards that are not good pickups, even though the reprint is quite attractively priced compared to the original.

Reiterate (TSR is $6, TSP is $15) – Only in 3,000 Commander decks online, the original price is simply a relic of the tiny supply. This will be nearly bulk relatively quickly.

Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir ($4 vs. $7) – the Iconic Masters and FTV reprints have kept the price low on this, and while it is a mythic, I’d need it to hit bulk status before I moved in. There’s a whole lot of copies out there and the Commander demand isn’t what you might expect.

Wheel of Fate ($1 vs $4) – Mystery Booster had this, there’s Commander copies out there too. Bulk and never to recover.

Coalition Relic ($2 vs $3) – Once the gold standard for mana rocks, the Relic has just been middling these last few years. There are 10,000 decks online that have it registered and likely a lot more that just play it because it’s good, but this is another card where the reprints have been a touch too frequent to let the price recover. If I knew they weren’t going to reprint this for another five years, this would be a solid buy.

The Old Country

Time Spiral Remastered is a set aimed at reprinting cards that have had a low supply and maximizing player nostalgia. As part of this, Wizards gave us a whole sheet of cards that were timeshifted backwards, a move foreshadowed by the old border Sword of Fire and Ice that was a judge promo a while ago.

This old border sheet of 121 cards is going to drive a lot of the value of the set. Foils are silly rare, you’re getting 1.3 of those per box. The nonfoils offer some intriguing opportunities if the prices drop low enough. Let’s talk about where those prices will go, and when I want to buy in.

I want to reiterate something I said before: about 1-2 weeks after release is your target timing. Regular folks will have gotten their boxes and cracked them, looking for value. Given the premium on the foils, I am expecting everything else to take a dive. Today, though, I want to look at the preorder prices for the old border cards (from now on, abbreviated as OB and OBF) and decide when I want to be buying.

Generally speaking, since these are preorder prices, you can expect prices to go lower as more of the product gets opened. Right now, the people buying are the ones who literally don’t care about price and have to have this card ASAP. Lots of these OB cards are between $5 and $10, and will drop to $1-$2. 

One more item to consider: OB cards that are tournament staples may represent a real shift in how tournament players make their deck unique. Until the introduction of Extended Art and Showcase cards, players had to decide if they wanted to foil out their deck to make it more their own, to have that level of showing off. This involved risk, though, because an incompletely-foiled out deck can have some glaring differences between the foils and nonfoils due to warping/curling issues. If tournament players start moving in on non-foil but special versions of cards, you may see jumps across the board for those once in-person play begins again.

Thoughtseize (OB is currently $65) – Thoughtseize is a staple in Legacy and Modern, and the behavior of this card will be the clearest signal about tournament players’ behavior. There are a lot of options for this, including borderless versions and an Invocation. Should the nonfoil special versions move significantly, other staples won’t be far behind. The 2XM nonfoil borderless is at $30, but that doesn’t have the iconic original art. I think this drops some, but probably not as far as $45. Tournament players who need a full playset are going to keep this card higher than that.

Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker ($40) – This is going to come down a lot. Mystery Booster copies are $15, OG Kamigawa copies can be had under $30. Iconic Masters and Modern Masters versions are also under $20. There will be some demand to go old-border for Cubes and such, but not enough to keep the price high. I’m expecting this to fall to $25 or less.

Panharmonicon ($23) – This is about double the price of the original nonfoils, which have been trending upwards nicely, even as it was put into The List:

With foils still in the $20 range, we’re at an interesting question: Will players seek out OB versions before foils in the new frame? I can’t answer that, but I’m exceedingly curious about the answer. I’m confident that the OB versions will fall down to the $10-$15 range, but will they stay below the pack foils? I love the look of these timeshifted cards, so I’m biased, but my guess is that we’re a little too conditioned to chase foils. These will probably stay under $20 for a while. In the same vein of ‘will pack foils or OB foils be more expensive is Vanquisher’s Banner, a card I’ve long loved as a tribal spec. I’m expecting the Banner to fall much farther, though, down into the $5 range when supply is at its peak. That’s when I’d like to acquire more than a few copies.

Arcades, the Strategist ($20) – I have to admit, I thought this was WAY overpriced, and then I looked at the graph:

Seems this ‘backbone’ sort of thing has legs, and this injection of new copies has come along at the perfect time. Arcades’ growth has been slow but steady, and while the price will take a dive in the short term, it’ll bounce back over time. I don’t expect any movement on the foils, though. This should travel down to being $10 before starting the climb back up. Every new Defender creature or memes like a Giant Ox should see a blip in this price, too.

Wastes ($8) – Speaking of memes, players who need colorless lands are a class all their own. Full-art foils from Oath of the Gatewatch were nicely positioned to be the growth target, and now this. Nonfoils are definitely going to drop a bunch, and I’m not sure I’d want to have a lot of these around. The full-art foil versions were about $15 at release in 2016, and never really got expensive. In fact, after a spike around the time of War of the Spark, the full-art foils are now cheaper than they were after release.

For Wastes to become expensive (any version aside from the most basic) there’s going to need to be a new colorless commander, or other colorless cards that inspire Wastes-based decks. Keep in mind that the decks which play Thought-Knot Seer and Reality Smasher don’t run many basic lands: the Modern versions play the full set of Tron lands and the Legacy builds use Cloudpost & friends. If Wizards made a new colorless commander deck, there would be some number of basic Wastes in there too. If this version got down under $1, I might spec on a few but generally, I’m staying away.

Cliff (@WordOfCommander) has been writing for MTGPrice since 2013, and is an eager Commander player, Draft enthusiast, and Cube fanatic. A high school science teacher by day, he’s also the official substitute teacher of the MTG Fast Finance podcast. If you’re ever at a GP and you see a giant flashing ‘CUBE DRAFT’ sign, go over, say hi, and be ready to draft.