Category Archives: Casual Fridays

Ikoria on the Floor

Look, I’ll be honest: I don’t think you should buy anything from Commander Legends this weekend unless you’re getting a great price and/or it’s something you have to have for a deck. I just bought a couple of things for my Commander decks, but I’m waiting for people to finish opening their Collector Booster boxes. 

Instead, I want to look at the set we left behind, and compare prices to their Commander usage, and tell you what to stock up on.

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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 Strength of First-Run Foils

When a card gets reprinted, it will lose value. That’s one of the bedrock principles of Magic finance, and probably isn’t news to you.

However, there are some exceptions to this rule, and some of them may be surprising to you.

Let’s take a look at some examples of cards which went UP after being reprinted, flying in the face of conventional wisdom.

The first set of foils that came to my mind in terms of reprints are pretty iconic: the OG Ravnica-block shocklands. Let’s look at Hallowed Fountain’s graph, though you can use just about any of them. Keep in mind that Ravnica was in 2009, Return to Ravnica was 2012, and Guilds of Ravnica was 2019. The original shocklands are quite well aged.

Yowza, that’s an expensive shockland, especially when you look at the price of its reprint:

Note that the Guilds reprint in 2019 didn’t faze the RTR price much, but caused the Dissension price to jump enormously. The other shocklands have had hops from time to time, but the pattern of growth is there despite the reprints. Reprints which included BFZ Expeditions in 2015, mind you.

Now you might be saying, “Yeah, but those are for the shocklands, and those are cards with mega-cross-format appeal!” You’d be right, but there’s no appreciable reason for the 2005 card to be four or five times as expensive as the 2012 one. Especially because there’s not a lot of space between the 2012 foil price and the 2019 foil price.

That’s the shocklands, though. Let’s try something else with an older foil and a lot of reprints.

Karn Liberated has been popular since his first printing in New Phyrexia (2011) and while he’s not a big deal in Commander, Tron has been the real deal with the ability to slam him down turn three and exile something. The price on the OG foil, now nearly ten years old, tells quite a tale:

Something happened in late 2018: Ultimate Master Box Toppers. But even that price has been impacted in 2020 by Double Masters, which gave us another borderless treatment.

The difference here is probably one of use: Karn is big in Modern, but tiny in Commander. Fountain, though, is in 50k+ decks online, literally half the decks that could have the shockland do.

All right, so let’s try a commander card with an original foil, and no special frame reprint. Seedborn Muse meets these criteria, though there hasn’t been a foil reprint since Battlebond in 2017:

I have to admit I’m not a huge fan of using a card with the old border foil in this thought process, but $200 as TCG low vs under $50 for 9th, 10th, and BBD foils is right in line with expectations.

How about a commander staple with an old border AND a special frame reprint? Let’s talk about the Sad Robot, Solemn Simulacrum:

The price on the foil has stayed under $50 for a long time, being the Invitational card back in 2003. There was a reprint in Magic 2012, which included a foil version, but the real event was in 2016, when the Invention version showed up and started soaking up the dollars of people who would have otherwise paid for the OG foil. We got a new FEA version in Core 2021,which seems to have impacted the price on this card, given how the price has fallen this year.

So to summarize: original pack foils are pretty safe from reprints until a special version shows up. ‘Special Version’ can mean a lot of things, such as in Sakura-Tribe Elder’s case, where there’s an FNM and the awesomely shiny JSS treatment. Mostly, though, it’s going to mean a foil extended art.

This rule does not apply if the special frame becomes more expensive than the original: collectors will then start chasing the most pricey version of the card, and the prophecy will fulfill itself. For instance, I can’t see the new Zendikar Rising Expedition version of Scalding Tarn ever being more expensive than the Battle for Zendikar Expedition version. Godless Shrine, though, the BfZ Expedition became more than the Dissension card and never looked back.

If you own an original foil of a card and a special version shows up, don’t panic. Definitely don’t panic sell, especially if it’s the original foil of a staple in Cube or Commander. There are cards that are resistant to this pressure, and playability is a big part of that calculation.

Duel Decks don’t count, as I see with Avenger of Zendikar and a couple of other cards. Those have been rotten egg of reprints for quite a while, though it’s good that some foil versions remain cheap.

What does this mean going forward?

Well, for starters, I’m going to flinch at expensive pack foils when reprints are coming. One example of this would be Rings of Brighthearth, which is getting a reprint in Commander Legends and that includes a foil extended art treatment. The presence of that FEA means I’m expecting the OG foil to take a hit. Will it recover? Maybe. Whichever one is more expensive in six weeks is the one I’d want to have going forward. Price memory is going to play a big part in something like that, too.

It also means that I much prefer to invest in special frame versions going forward. Not only are those less likely to be reprinted (note that’s not the same as impossible) but they will also be resilient to reprint drag.

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.

Where do we go from here?

Last week I wrote about the difficulties in finding specific foil extended art cards that are in Commander Legends. Today I want to look at a few specific cards and compare the current prices to where I think those prices are going to go.

As I said last week, the foil extended art cards are going to be highly sought after and not terribly common. You’ve got the math for the foil or nonfoil extended art rares and mythics, but the uncommons and commons require a little explaining first.

One slot in a Collector Booster has a nonfoil extended art common or uncommon, from this list:

Then we have two slots for foil regular-frame uncommons and five slots for foil regular frame commons. Under normal circumstances, I’d expect the regular frame foils and nonfoils to end up at the same price, but we have a pair of relevant cards here that have never been in foil: Path of Ancestry (32,700 decks on EDHREC) and Opal Palace (nearly 18,000).

Those two are going to be helped out a lot, price-wise, by being in the common slot. Those are 2/141, but five slots as opposed to the two uncommon slots in a Collector Booster. Even more important, each of those two slots has a 20% chance to upgrade to a foil extended art (FEA) common or uncommon.

Let’s look at some current prices, given the preorders on TCGPlayer.

Command Tower (75 cents for a regular, $9 for regular foil, $13 for EA and $50 for the FEA) – This ought to be in every non-monocolored Commander deck, and there’s already two foil versions: Commander’s Arsenal ($100) and the Judge Promo ($125). Given those two prices, the FEA at $50 feels cheap and the $9 regular-frame foil feels obscene. 

However, I do expect the prices to drop for the first few weeks, and then these are going to be a VERY attractive purchase. Picking up the regular-frame foils for under $5 is going to be a total steal if they drop that low. The FEA isn’t going to stay cheap forever, either. Don’t buy them now, but I’d be surprised if this went under $35. 

Arcane Signet ($2/$15/$10/$38) – Being the first foil printing, this will have quite a premium attached. It’s not going to be the only foil printing, though, and that’s got me feeling a little wary. They haven’t used different art yet, it’s been the same for a year and a half. That’ll change too, and if there’s a new art being used in the reprint (or the Secret Lair) then that’ll preserve some of the price. 

Note that for right now, the foil is pricier than the EA nonfoil, and I suspect those will come closer together. People desperate for a foil are going after them hard right now, and patience will pay off. Forty seems reasonable for the most chase version, especially since you’ll get one FEA Signet approximately every 87 packs. I want the price to come down a little before I buy my personal copies, but it might not.

Keep in mind that in terms of preorders, the Signet is more expensive than several mythics, even though it’s going to be much more common.

Thought Vessel ($3/$8/$8/$22) – Now we’re getting spicy. Just a little more than $20 can get me the FEA version of this first-time foil present in nearly 40k decks online? I don’t know how much lower this can go, but logic tells me it does have a little bit of a dip coming. I’m very very tempted to buy some of these right now for the $22 price, and there’s vendors willing to oblige. 

I’d like to get in on a stack of foils around $5, or hopefully less. This is a very popular mana rock, and ramping from two to four is where you really want to be. 

Terramorphic Expanse (bulk/$0.75/$3/$20) – These FEA commons and uncommons are going to carry a lot of value in these packs, and even if they dip it’s going to be a few bucks. Too many people play this alongside Evolving Wilds on a budget for it to be a cheap FEA. What’s really going to be amazing is that when it drops down to $10, it’ll jump back to $20 eventually.

Path of Ancestry ($1/$5/$7/$15) – Remember that this and Opal Palace (a quarter/$1.50/$4/$15) drop much more often than the uncommons, at least when it comes to the regular-frame foils. These drop at the same rate as Arcane Signet in FEA, but are played a lot less commonly. Path is my favorite preorder right now, given that it’s in 37k decks online and should be in every tribal Commander deck. Frankly, I want to buy a bunch of these right now, but I’m being patient. 

Reliquary Tower ($2/no foils on sale/$4/$13) – Given that this is 31% of all EDH decks online (130,000!) this is another surprisingly cheap staple. There are other foils available of this card, from the original in Conflux to reprints and FNM and the special ‘bring a friend to your LGS’ version. The FEA version is probably going to be the most expensive going forward, but I don’t think it’ll drop much below $10, given the demand.

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 Amazing Math of CLCBs

Commander Legends has been fully previewed, and I’d like to express my appreciation to Wizards for doing this on Thursdays. Makes my life that much easier.

We know what’s in the set, what’s got special frames, and the formulation of each Collector Booster. That means it’s time to do some math and figure out how rare some of these cards are going to be, and that’ll inform our buying decisions.

First of all, let’s look at the raw numbers on the set: 141 commons, 120 uncommons, 77 rares, 22 mythic rares, 1 special (The Prismatic Piper).

Of those, 69 legendary creatures (from any rarity) can show up as foil-etched in a special frame. Add to that 32 more reprinted legends in that frame, including all of the original Partner commanders.

From a finance perspective, the most relevant pieces of information are that Extended Art foils and nonfoils are ONLY in the Collector Boosters. The etched foil legends (Only foils, there’s no nonfoils of these cards) can be found in the draft boosters, as can the borderless planeswalkers in foil and nonfoil. We know there’s one foil of any rarity per Draft Booster, but that’s a regular foil, not an Extended Art foil, but it could be a borderless planeswalker in foil.

Thankfully, we also have a breakdown of precisely what’s in the Collector Boosters. Feel free to look at the breakdown, but I’m going to be focusing on the odds and the chase cards.

Most regular-frame common and uncommon foils I’m not too worried about. Yes, this is a first foil for a lot of Commander-specific cards, but there’s a special list of 33 commons and uncommons available as extended-art foils, and that’s the spicy stuff. 

Collector Boosters have one slot for a nonfoil EA of one of these cards, so you have a 1 in 33 chance of getting a particular nonfoil EA from this list per booster. 

For foils, it’s notably rarer. There are two slots for foil uncommons from the entire set, but about 20% of the time, that upgrades to a foil EA from this list. So in one pack, you have two runs at these, at 1/5 the rate of the nonfoil. 

That works out to a 1.2% chance, per pack, of getting a specific foil EA common or uncommon. If you like fractions, I did the math and it’s 1 in 82.5 packs for getting that foil EA Arcane Signet. At 12 packs per box, and six boxes per case, you will get .87 FEA Signets per case, or any other particular card from the list of 33.

For the foil-etched legends, there’s a slot for the 36 uncommons, a slot for the 32 reprinted legends, and then a slot for the 23 mythic and rare ones. Those are guaranteed, so the rate is much better than the 20% drop rate for the FEA uncommons.

One slot is dedicated to nonfoil EA treatments, and that will help keep those prices in line, but there’s 65 of those cards that could drop. That’s just a 1.5% chance of getting a specific EA rare or mythic rare in your collector booster pack.

Now, the super-chase cards: The foil extended-art cards at rare and mythic. There’s one slot for a foil rare or mythic rare, and 30% of the time, that card upgrades to a foil Extended Art.

In that slot, 30% of the time, it goes to FEA rare or mythic. There’s 52 rares and 17 mythics. That means that on a sheet of 121 cards, each rare is on there twice and each mythic once.

If you don’t like percentages, let’s expand it out a little.

Percentage of opening a specific cardHow many packs you have to open to get one copy of that card (roughly)How many of this type per Collector Booster box
Rare Foil1.15%877.2
Mythic Rare Foil0.58%1721.2
Rare Extended Art Foil0.49%2043.1
Mythic Rare Extended Art Foil0.25%4000.5

How about a visual? Each column is the foil rare/mythic rare slot in a Collector Booster:

Many thanks to sods, Alexis, and Ra0Ra in the MTGPrice Discord for explaining math to me over and over again.

So what does this mean for us? 

First of all, these Collector Boosters are going to have some very big swings in value. The Extended Art cards will carry a lot of value in the big ones, and some won’t be very expensive, but FEA mythics are going to be hyper rare. 

There will be excellent value in the FEA uncommons as well. The first-time foils like Arcane Signet and Thought Vessel will carry value even without being Extended Art, but the FEA Signets and Vessels should be very high out of the gates and likely won’t come down too much. Don’t sleep on Path of Ancestry (first foil), Myriad Landscape (78k decks on EDHREC, second foil printing) or Three Visits (a P3K reprint).

Commander Legends is already impacted by production delays and the coronavirus shutting down North American stores. It’s quite possible that some of these cards never have a chance to get cheap–Jeweled Lotus will be in FEA once every 33.3 boxes, or 5.55 CASES of Collector Boosters.

I don’t have enough information on the delays and the impact on the total number of Collector Boosters out there to predict the effect that’ll have. I do advocate that you definitely get your personal copies before Christmas, but don’t be a buyer the first week or two. Let the frenzy calm down a little and then get what you need. Be more patient when it comes to your investments in this set.

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.