All posts by James Chillcott

Understanding MTGO treasure chests

By: Oko Assassin

Studying MTGO Treasure Chests (TCs) is essential to understanding the overall Magic Online economy. Beyond drafting, TCs are the primary method of inserting new supply into MTGO. For non-drafting sets, like Commander and Jumpstart, TCs are often the only mechanism that WOTC uses to distribute new cards into the MTGO economy because these products are not available for direct purchase on MTGO.

While TCs are important, understanding them is easier said than done. The contents of TCs are quite complicated and change periodically, every 1-3 months. This article aims to empower you to understand current and future versions of the TCs, their likely impact on MTGO, and how you can fund your play and/or profit from future TC updates!

Treasure Chest Origins

TCs were implemented in 2016. At that time, and for many years after, TCs were viewed as a product that would ultimately destroy MTGO. As background, I encourage readers to check out this 2018 CFB analysis of TCs dramatic impact on MTGO. Prior to TCs, the MTGO economy was more like the paper magic market, where out-of-print assets reliably increased in value over time until reprinted. After TCs, the MTGO economy started to collapse because of the new influx of supply combined with negative perceptions leading to a shrinking player base, especially after the launch of MTG Arena spooked folks into thinking MTGO was doomed.

Fast forward to today and the MTGO economy has rebounded to some extent. The current value of a playset of every single MTGO card is $26,575 as of July 2020, which is similar to 2016 when TCs were first implemented. As recently as June 2019 this figure was less than $15,000. This recent stabilization is driven by several factors, including COVID-19 driving demand for digital products, the creation of Pioneer as a new format not yet available on Arena, and the continuing popularity of other eternal formats that are also exclusive to MTGO in digital. Predictions of doom and gloom for MTGO seem to be behind us, for now. 

Treasure Chests Contents

The current contents of TCs are located here, and are updated every 1-3 months. Overall, TCs contain: 

  • Play Points
  • A random Modern Legal Rare or Mythic   
  • “Curated” cards, which are selected for inclusion on a rotating basis   
  • Jumpstart and Commander 2020 cards 
  • Avatars (which are financially irrelevant)

Play Points: Roughly half of the value of TCs is derived from Play Points. The exact percentage can be found here on Goatbots Expected Value (EV) Calculator. Due to this, the only way to profitably open up TCs is through needing Play Points to enter MTGO events, which means vendors are unwilling to crack TCs to access the cards inside. As a result, the TC market is relatively inefficient, with the EV often becoming higher than costs of chests, sometimes by a large margin. 

Random Modern Rare or Mythic: In most TCs, one random Rare or Mythic from a Modern format legal set will be included. Specifically, you have 68% odds of getting at least one random Rare or Mythic, and 12.0% chance of getting two. Rares are twice as likely as Mythics. Often this slot translates into a random card you have never heard of and is worth nothing. But sometimes you will hit a Force of Negation worth a stack of tickets! The odds of hitting any specific rare is .013%, meaning you would have to open 7,692 TCs to get a specific rare on average. It is easier to get any given Mythic at .030% (or 3,333 TCs), because Mythics have such a smaller card pool. These numbers are subject to change overtime as new sets are added and the formula evolves. Overall, this slot slowly injects a consistent supply of Modern legal Rares and Mythics into the MTGO economy, even if those cards are not on the curated card list. 

“Curated” Cards: In one quarter of TCs, you will get a card from a hand-selected list that is typically valuable. Specifically, you have around 24% odds of getting at least one curated card, and 1% chance of getting two. The current list of curated cards is available here, along with details of the most recent TC changes. Each curated item has a specific drop rate associated with it. The higher the drop rate, the more likely an item is to show up. Drop rates currently range from 1-50. 

To determine the likelihood of any specific curated cards, you must divide the specific drop rate by the combined drop rate of all curated items (the denominator), which is currently 4,278, then multiply by the likelihood of getting this specific drop (25%). As a mathematical formula it looks like this: =1/((6/4,278)*0.25). 

For cards with a drop rate of 6, you will have to open 2,852 TCs on average to get a copy. For a drop rate of 12, this decreases to 1,426. For a 50 drop rate, it is 342 TCs.      

Overall, I recommend always checking whether a card is included in the curated TCs list – and at what drop rate – prior to speculating or purchasing any MTGO card.  

New! Jumpstart and Commander 2020

TCs are the only method of inserting most non-draftable MTGO products into the online economy. For better or worse, players cannot buy a Commander deck in the MTGO store. To ensure there is enough supply of these specialty products Wizards recently added a new slot in the TCs specifically dedicated to Commander 2020 (C20) and Jumpstart (JMP) cards. 

This slot was created following a failed effort to leverage the curated slot for this purpose, without success. Prior to this change, a full set of JMP was valued at over 500 tickets and C20 at over 600 tickets. This change created a huge influx of new supply and only two short weeks later, the prices on either set had plummeted to under 200 tickets. I expect future Commander and other specialty products to use this slot as well.

In TCs you have a 35% chance of getting a JMP/C20 card. The current card list and drop rate for this slot is available here. Similar to the curated slot, to determine the likelihood of any specific curated cards, you must divide the specific drop rate by the combined drop rate of all C20/JMP items (the denominator), which is currently 1,146, then multiply by the likelihood of getting this specific drop (35%). As a mathematical formula it looks like this: =1/((6/1146)*0.35). 

If a C20/JMP card has a drop rate of 6, you will have to open 545 TCs on average to get a copy. For a drop rate of 12, this would decrease to 272. This is a roughly 10x increase in new supply compared to the old TC formulation for JMP & C20. 

Treasure Chest Updates Impact on MTGO Economy

Updates to the TCs curated list can quickly and dramatically move the MTGO economy. I have already discussed how the value of entire sets dropped by 66% over only two weeks due to a TC update with JMP/C20. This price movement was driven by additional supply of a low supply set entering the market.  

The reverse also occurs.  Take for example when the Power Nine from Vintage Masters was removed from the TCs. Here you can see the iconic Black Lotus more than double in price as soon as the changes were announced. The price eventually retraced as speculators sold out, but for those who timed it right, profit was made.

Overall, any card included on the curated card list, C20/JMP, or to a lesser extent any modern era Rare/Mythic will slowly have new supply enter the MTGO economy. If the new supply is not too great, or the demand is enough to overcome the new supply, this is not a problem. That said cards included on the curated card list, especially at a drop rate of 12 or higher, will often see their price decrease slowly over time. I recommend steering clear of speculating on any card that has a drop rate of 12 or higher unless the factors truly warrant it and you are acting on a very short timeline.  

How Many Treasure Chests Get Opened? 

Only WOTC truly knows. Yet some recent Jumpstart data gives some indications. Without going into all the math, it seemed as though at least 40,000 TCs were opened in this single week based on JMP TC drop rates at the time. That’s a lot of TCs! 

Goatbots, a major vendor who was in the past position to know, recently estimated that 10,000 chests were being opened daily during this time period. Although this was a blockbuster time-period for TCs, causing an abnormal amount to be opened, this new data highlights the large volume of new cards that must be pumped into the MTGO economy each week!    

Future Applications

Understanding how TCs work and their impact on the MTGO economy will make you better at buying and selling cards on MTGO. At a bare minimum, you should check whether a card is included in the TC curated list before speculating on any card moving forward. Though we have covered the fundamentals here, you should also regularly review the curated card list to better understand this key factor in the movement of the MTGO economy. 

To make a quick profit, consider monitoring for TC updates and acting on fresh changes. Specifically, you should sell cards that become much more common in TCs curated list and buy cards that become less common. It takes some experience to know exactly what changes to look out for. To be successful, you must act quickly! Price changes based on TC updates start happening within minutes and the latest solid entry point is typically one hour or less from the TC change announcement. MTGO signals their upcoming TC updates weeks in advance for those watching closely enough, but they never say the specific time/date. Sometimes you can find hints on this MTGO website, but the best way to stay in the loop is to join the MTG Price Pro Trader Discord, which explodes into chatter as soon as TC updates are posted. 

Making & Saving Money on Magic Online: Tips & Tricks

by Oko Assassin & James Chillcott

What is Magic Online?

Magic Online (MTGO) is a first generation legacy software platform providing Magic players with digital access to play Magic: The Gathering. Speculation on Magic Online is made possible by the fact that the software provides a digital goods marketplace that allows players and vendors to buy, sell and trade cards and tix (the digital currency of MTGO).  The program is expected to eventually be replaced entirely by the 3rd generation software Magic Arena (which does not provide a marketplace) but the effort required to code older sets into Arena has all but guaranteed that MTGO will be around at least until 2021-2022.

Overview

The MTGO economy is one of significant volatility with prices moving faster than with paper Magic. On Magic Online it is common to observe prices shifting significantly in minutes rather than days, weeks or months. This means that the timeline for MTGO speculation is often defined by very brief windows of opportunity that require you to be carefully tracking fast moving prices, recurring and new card supply outlets and current card usage trends.

By way of example, on February 27 we could have bought 40 copies of Heliod, Sun-Crown for 13.55 tix each, and subsequently sold them for 19.87 tixs on average between March 5-9. Heliod’s price movement can be seen below, courtesy of Goatbots.com. On this play we would make 252 tix from an initial investment of 542 tix, representing a 47% return in about a week. The annualized equivalent of such returns is clearly ridiculous but more commonly MTGO speculation leads to smaller, incremental gains that must be repeated to create real asset growth.

A screenshot of a cell phone

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Finding successful specs like this is as much an art as a science, but it is still well worth establishing a general approach and tips for maximizing our efforts on MTGO.

MTGO vs. Paper MTGFinance

Many MTGO Finance fundamentals are the same on MTGO as in paper MTG Finance, including the importance of supply vs. demand, and the likelihood that fresh tournament results will drive key price changes. Experience with paper speculation therefore provides a definite advantage in the MTGO market, but there are also additional factors to consider on Magic Online to be successful in this unique marketplace.

One major difference is found in which magic formats are prioritized by MTGO users. In 2020, the most important constructed paper magic formats are arguably EDH, Standard, Pioneer and Modern. Online a lot of Standard play has been captured by Magic Arena, while Pioneer, Modern, and Legacy can only be played on MTGO, with Modern being the most popular constructed format on Magic Online at present.  EDH is generally considered to be far better in person than online and so typically does not drive prices on MTGO as it does in paper (at least before the COVID crisis hit).

Unique supply patterns on MTGO can also lead to outsized spikes in card prices vs. paper. Mishra’s Bauble for instance is currently $9 in paper, but over $50 on Magic Online.

Another key difference is the amount of supply in circulation for specific cards. The MTGO economy has a number of unique re-supply points that by and large do not exist in the paper economy. 

Flashback Drafts

One of the most important sources of additional supply on Magic Online is the regular reintroduction of sets via “flashback” or “encore” drafts, which allow MTGO players to draft out-of-print sets, typically for a single week. These drafts push fresh card supply into the market, which tends to crash prices for the included cards, at least in the short term. In early April 2020, for example, Modern Horizons had a flashback draft for a week, which crashed the price of Force of Negation from 90 tix to as low as 40 tickets, which then bounced back to 60 tickets just a few days later as constant demand started to overtake the fresh supply. All this movement took place over a few days – reinforcing the fast pace of MTGO finance. MTGPrice Pro Traders profited hundreds of tickets on this action alone. 

Treasure Chests

Another near constant and shifting source of supply on MTGO are the Treasure Chests, which are extremely complicated and likely warrant their own article. But in short, these chests inject new supply into the MTGO economy for specific cards over time. Chests are distributed as rewards for winning MTGO leagues and tournaments. The cards and prevalence of each card included in treasure chests changes every few months. This article outlines, in painful detail, the contents of Treasure Chests, and online resources by Goatbots calculate the value of treasure chests. We recommend reviewing whether a potential spec is included on a treasure chest list, and at what prevalence, before jumping in.  

Vendor Differences

Wizards of the Coast doesn’t sell singles directly on MTGO. Rather, they sell either tix (in game currency roughly equivalent to the USD) or booster packs. The vendors on MTGO operate within the marketplace via bot software that shifts buy and sell prices based on the # of transactions for a given card per period of time. These bots profit on the back of margins linked to card popularity and frequency of transactions. There are no discounted booster boxes online, and while pack prices vary dramatically online vendors are not known for buying and cracking sealed boosters to replenish their stock. As such, if players are holding key cards in their collection and those cards have not seen fresh supply for a while on MTGO, the prices will naturally trend upward. 

Unique Promos

For example, MTGO has its own unique promos, some of which are priced at a premium due to scarcity, while others have a massive supply that crushes their price. Take a look at the massively circulated promo for Ugin, the Spirit Dragon, which is priced at only .05 tickets online! In contrast, extended art UMA Karn Liberated are priced at 80 tickets, an 800 percent premium over normal copies, entirely due to the # of copies that entered the platform during the related distribution period and how many players had access to them during that period.  

Digital to Paper Redemption Programs

At this point Magic Online still supports a popular redemption program that allows players and vendors to collect entire sets of Magic cards in either non-foil or foil and redeem them through the MTGO store to receive a sealed paper set of the same cards. There is currently a $25 redemption handling fee per set redeemed  + $2.99 US domestic shipping fee for each order, regardless of the number of sets redeemed. Whenever a set is redeemed in this way, the digital assets involved are effectively taken out of circulation, while additional inventory is added to the paper market. Traditionally this has led to a couple of important trends: paper vendors resupplying key Standard staples more reliably than through booster box cracking via the acquisition of sealed sets AND the gradual collapse of MTGO singles prices once sets rotate out of the redemption window. 

Key Strategies

Given the complexity of the additional factors to consider on Magic Online there are a handful of tried and true strategies worth considering when looking to identify key specs or figuring out when to time the addition of important cards to your collection.

The most important strategies currently include: 

  • Timely identification of emerging new deck technology in popular metagames and targeting of the most supply constrained cards in those decks based on pro/stream content and daily event results. (Daily tournament results for MTGO can be found over here: https://magic.wizards.com/en/content/deck-lists-magic-online-products-game-info).
  • Buying up the most popular staples from flashback draft sets during the busiest first weekend of that draft period and selling them within a few days or weeks as the demand begins to again overtake supply
  • Buying popular cards that are taken out of (or have had their drop rates significantly reduced) Treasure Chests and selling those that are added at high rates that may overwhelm their true demand
  • Leveraging the ebb and flow of player collections being sold off to bots for tix to fuel the drafting of a new set
  • Targeting freshly important cards to buy/sell based on meta and singular card price shifts resulting from on new Banned & Restricted announcements
  • Tracking the rise and fall of Treasure Chest values can lead to small but strongly compounding returns over short periods of time that can ratchet up your collection value 
  • “Shorting” Magic Online cards by renting them from a rental service, selling them into a price spike, and returning copies bought at a lower price later on

Tracking Card Prices

MTGGoldfish.com and Goatbots.com both have daily and weekly price trackers for MTGO. Checking these websites regularly provides valuable insights into the market overall, whether any particular format, deck or card is going up or down, along with highlighting which cards are leading the price movements each day. Here is where you can find this data on both websites: 

MTGGoldfish shows weekly and daily movement for each major format, based on Cardhoarder pricing. Make sure you have online prices selected in the top right-hand corner of the site.

Goatbots shows the weekly, monthly, and six-month data for that format. You can also see the total cost and most expensive cards for each format.

Best Practices

To maximize your chances at success, here are seven rules that are applicable to most of what you might get up to on MTGO:

  1. Be right, not original: As with most MTGFinance original ideas are only worth chasing if you are truly ahead of the curve. Most of the time you will be best off ignoring 3 of every 4 specs you consider in favor of going deeper on the surest play. Likewise, don’t feel pressure to be constantly in play. If you have recouped your capital and are sitting on tix waiting for a great opportunity, feel free to take your time to find the next move. If you only handle 4 transactions per year, but they’re all at 25%+ returns, you’re doing great so long as you keep your research time to a minimum.
  2. Scarcity + Popularity = Profit: Try to focus on single printing mythics, staple rares, or very cheap rares that need some help from future circumstances to take off. Wide distribution promos, cards with multiple printings, commons and uncommons are all much harder to make money on due to outsized supply. If you target rares over mythics, stick to multiformat staples like Thoughtseize or Ice-Fang Coatl and those that are so extremely cheap that they represent solid growth potential if/when their moment in the spotlight appears.
  3. NO FOMO: This principle may be obvious, but it deserves reiteration. Chasing a rocketing spec you are late to address is usually not worth it. Avoid embracing FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) at all costs. If a card has jumped by 100 percent, you likely missed the boat, and safer moves are likely just around the corner.
  4. Short Term > Long Term: the MTGO economy and meta changes too quickly to prioritize long term moves. Do not buy anything for a multi-month time horizon, except perhaps for very cheap speculative picks (that are naturally lower priorities regardless).
  5. Don’t Blink: To help stay on top of the speed of the MTGO market, we recommend exporting the notable parts of your MTGO collection and tracking them through Cardhoarder’s Cardkeeper Tool.  You don’t need to trade daily, but you should at least be checking in on current vs. target prices a couple of times a day if you have active specs worth tracking. Minimize your time spent on these actions by minimizing how many prices you need to track. Details on this tool are below.
  6. Save time, buy in bulk: Where possible you generally want to be buying 12-20 copies of a card when possible. Buying a larger quantity of each spec is essential to min/maxing your time spent and returns. Getting a few tix from one card won’t dramatically affect your bottom line, but if you own 20 copies, your profits can quickly pile up. Just remember that buying more than 4 copies of each spec per transaction can be a challenge because MTGO pricing through bots is dynamic. This means that for every 4 copies of a card purchase, the price of that card will typically go up. These price increases can be nominal especially for high supply cards, but sometimes price increases can be large, which can seriously eat into potential profits. Buying a large quantity at one time will end up costing you a little more, but this is preferable to devoting your attention to the same spec over multiple hours/days. To mitigate the effect of dynamic pricing consider splitting your transaction between different bot chains. Pro Traders generally recommend Cardhoarder, MTGO Traders, and Goatbots as the strongest bot chains on Magic Online, but sometimes searching for card prices in the marketplace can locate even better prices.
  7. Bots or Not: When buying or selling larger quantities of cards, there’s no question that the automated bots in the MTGO marketplace are your best option. That said, those bots operate on the back of a natural spread in their buy/sell price, where for instance, they may be paying 20 tix for a card they sell for 25. As such, if you are selling lesser quantities, or the card you are selling is especially hot at the moment, and/or it typically sells in playsets, you may get more out of your specs by selling direct to players via posted ads in the marketplace within MTGO or via private sale over social media. Work those angles to max returns!

Tracking Your Specs

Cardhoarder offers a free Card Keeper Tool that allows users to track your specs all in one place. To leverage this tool, follow these simple steps: 

  1. Within MTGO, go to the collection tab, and under your trade binders right click on “Full Trade List”. 
  2. Select export and save the file to your desktop.
  3. Visit cardhoarder.com/card-keeper, select the “Import Collection” from the top menu bar.
  4. Select “choose file” and import the “Full Trade List.dek” file you downloaded during step #1.
  5. Select process file.

As you buy new specs, repeat this process to keep your collection up to date. Prices on this website have a slight delay, so use this to evaluate your broad portfolio rather than specific cards. You can view the value of your entire collection in the top right corner of the Card Keeper Tool.  You will also likely want to cross-reference pricing at Goatbots.com and other vendor sites in case they are offering better prices on either the buy or sell side.

We also recommend you track your MTGO buying and selling in an old fashion spreadsheet to accurately track your buy-in price, timeline, and profits over time. For current specs, we track the card name, set, buy-in date, number of copies, price per copy, and total cost. For completed (sold) specs, we add the sell price per unit, sell date, and total profit or loss.

A Limited Future

While MTGO investment and collection maximization may be a solid play in the near to mid term, we must keep in mind that eventually Hasbro/WoTC is very likely to try and move the majority of players over to the Magic Arena platform within the next few years. With the launch of live 8-person drafts on Arena for the Ikoria release, one major draw to the MTGO platform has just been eliminated. This makes Pioneer, Modern, Legacy, Vintage, EDH and flashback drafts the remaining major draws to the MTGO platform. Given the time/money that WoTC needs to commit to backfill all of the missing sets on Magic Arena and support the older formats, there’s a pretty good chance that the Magic Online economy will still be afloat into 2022 at least. That said, you will be much better off planning your MTGO activities in the very short term, with plans of actions that last hours to no more than a month. Staying liquid and being able to unload tix for cash within a short period of time is important to securing your eventual exit from what is very likely a dying platform. 

Wrap Up

Now you have what you need to dive into the fascinating world of the MTGO economy. If you are looking to take your action to the next level you can sign up today to become an MTGPrice Pro Trader, join our bustling Discord and get daily updates on the latest in both paper and digital collection growth and speculation. 

Throne of eldraine: what the new premium product mix means for #mtgfinance

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.
Realm-Cloaked Giant // Cast Off (Showcase), Magic, Throne of Eldraine
  • 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.
Oko, Thief of Crowns (Borderless), Magic, Throne of Eldraine
  • 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.
The Great Henge (Extended Art), Magic, Throne of Eldraine

Collector Boosters

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:

Pretty simple right?

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.

Emry, Lurker of the Loch (Extended Art), Magic, Throne of Eldraine

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.

THE WATCHTOWER 9/23/19: three undervalued cards you should own now

By: James Chillcott
@mtgcritic


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Travis Allen has  been playing Magic: The Gathering since 1994, mostly in upstate New York. Ever since his first FNM he’s been trying to make playing Magic cheaper, and he first brought his perspective to MTGPrice in 2013. You can find his articles there weekly, as well as on the podcast MTG Fast Finance. James covered his article today because Travis was off being cool in New York City this weekend.