Category Archives: Casual Fridays

How Cheap Can These Cards Get?

Adventures in the Forgotten Realms is officially released today, so we’re able to buy those cards from vendors. As always, I’m expecting most cards to take a tumble as they become widely available, especially because they seem underpowered compared to other sets currently in Standard.

Underpowered usually means cheap, and AFR has one of the lowest aggregate values I’ve seen at release. As a result, people are expecting less of this set to be opened, and that makes sense, especially with Modern Horizons 2 right there, pouring value into your wallet if you’re buying as a distributor. 

So if a set is under-opened…that means it’s likely under-valued! Time to look at AFR from a long-term perspective, looking for cards that will likely have some casual appeal. What can we get cheaply now, and if stores are reopening and events are happening in paper, what might be good in a few months when Standard rotates?

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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.

Graduating from the School of Mages

Believe it or not, there’s still a whole week until we can get the Adventures in the Forgotten Realms cards into our hands. It’s been up on Arena and MTGO for a week now, but still one more week for the paper versions! Granted, we’re not expecting this set to realign everything in Standard, and Modern Horizons 2 still has a lot of our financial attention.

Instead of trying to predict what will happen to Standard or the prices of AFR (hint, everything is going to fall) I want to look at the set that we’re leaving behind and evaluate what’s at its lowest point.

First of all, let’s take a quick peek at the current nonfoil prices, from top to $6:

Yes, there’s a couple of rares and an uncommon on that list. This set hasn’t exactly lit anything up, financially speaking, but that’s where some of the biggest value can lie, especially because paper events are going to take off again sometime soon. If these prices are where they are now, where might things go once an actual GP happens?

Let’s take a moment and look at the graph of Expressive Iteration: 

This uncommon is selling for more than 95% of the set’s rares and mythics. It’s not the first time something like that has happened in Magic’s history, but given the pandemic, and the small number of paper copies opened, and the prevalence of UR spells/tempo/blitz/whatever you want to call it, you’ve got a perfect storm for an expensive uncommon.

Expressive Iteration also has the FNM-type promo, and that’s one of the most expensive Promo Pack cards I’ve seen in a while. The presence of those versions might be what’s keeping the regulars and the pack foils under $10.

Here’s the question, though: What’s going to happen to these prices during the run-up to the first Modern GP? Iteration is a four-of in what looks to be a very popular deck, and a powerful one too, given the results on MTGO. We’re also getting Demilich in Adventures in the Forgotten Realms, and that might be the final piece of the puzzle, one more solid and cheap creature for the spells deck.

I think we’re about to be in a world where Expressive Iteration is the most-played card from Strixhaven. Once paper events fire up again, I don’t think any copies will be under $10. Keep in mind that Strixhaven won’t rotate out of Standard until October of 2022, giving it a lot of time to shine. A reprint seems quite possible, but for right now, I think you get your copies cheap. 

The other card that sticks out from this list is Wandering Archaic // Explore the Vastlands. It’s only in 6600 EDHREC decks so far, but that’s a very high number for a card that only came out three months ago. It’s colorless, so can be put into any Commander deck, which means you have to have a reason to leave it out. It requires a tax, or an answer, things that I love doing to other people at the Commander table.

It’s already this popular after such a short period of time, and that bodes well for its future pricing. Archaic is at its lowest price so far, and I don’t think it’s done falling.

I would want to see the price start to trend back upward before I buy in on copies. There was a window to buy foil Extended Art copies around $20, and now those are up to $26. The nonfoil regulars being as low as $6 are a good sign, and looking at the most recent TCG sales, it’s got a lot of velocity. The 25 most recent sales for the regular nonfoils were all yesterday (It’s Thursday as I write this) and that bodes well. Lots of people are buying this, and that eats into the extensive amount of copies available. Give it another couple of weeks, I’d say, and you should be able to get some large quantities at $5 or perhaps even less.

Prismari Command is on here, at least the EA version, and that’s a card not seeing much Modern or Legacy play. It’s a very popular choice in Historic decks playing flavors of UR or Jeskai control. 

There’s a huge question about Historic vs. Pioneer that I don’t want to get into right now. Suffice it to say that Wizards has a strong interest in growing both formats and probably merging the two at some point. Standard will always be rotating and refreshing itself. Modern has a huge variety of decks and multiple sets that combine new cards and new reprints into the format. 

Historic and Pioneer represent a way to keep using your Standard cards even after rotation, which is a bigger deal online in Arena than it will be in paper. Remember at the end of 2019, when Pioneer combos and spikes were happening daily? Wizards would love to recapture that magic.

Prismari Command might be a key piece of such decks, and there’s a big gap between the FEA price ($11) and the pack nonfoil price ($4). Commander play isn’t a huge factor, at less than 4k decks, so you’re hoping for a lot of decks that want the mana and the draw two/discard two effect. The most basic version of Command was down to $3 about a month ago, so buying in now isn’t as attractive, but I think there’s a lot of room for growth, especially if lots of red-based decks switch to Dragon’s Rage Channeler over creatures with just plain Prowess.

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 Adventures in the Forgotten Realms

Yes, with another set comes the need to look at booster pack formulations and see what’s out there. We have an article about how to get the special Monster Manual versions of cards, or the Dungeon Modules, and we’re going to figure out how to get the cards that we want. 

For once, this is pretty straightforward, and I appreciate Wizards giving us a break from the wacky things they’ve done in sets to make certain things more scarce than usual. First, the basics: We have 101 commons, 80 uncommons, 60 rares, 20 mythic rares. That’s for the nonfoil, basic frames, and that’s what you’re opening and drafting if you’re doing this in paper.

Let’s start with the Showcase variants for this set, of which there are two: Monster Manual frames and the Classic Module treatment.

The Monster Manual is meant to be a throwback to, well, the Monster Manual from days of yore: 

Apparently these really pop in foil, but we will see. There are 16 commons with this look, plus 18 uncommons, 15 rares, and two mythics.

Then we have the Classic Module, which is only for lands: 

Since this is a lands-only treatment, it’s on one common, one uncommon, and seven rares. 

To go with the Showcase treatments, we get what we’re used to: Borderless cards with different art than their original card (5 uncommon dragons, one rare dragon, and eleven mythic dragons/planeswalkers) and Extended-Art cards (30 rares, seven mythics) to round out the set. Interestingly, the seven rare class cards don’t have any special treatments.

It’s pretty neat that there are four different treatments, but pay special attention to the lack of etched foiling here. We’ve got four treatments, and it’s either foiled in the traditional method or not foiled at all. No in-between of the etched versions to worry about.

Let’s take a moment and reflect on what you can find in a Draft Booster or a Set Booster. You will not find Extended Art cards, but you can get the other three treatments, in foil or nonfoil. Your odds are pretty terrible, though. 

We were told that 10% of Draft Boosters will have a rare or mythic with a different treatment. We also know that 33% of Draft Boosters will have a foil of any rarity replacing a common. Your odds of pulling an alternate-frame rare or mythic aren’t just 3.3% though. 

First, your odds of getting a foil rare or mythic in a Draft Booster are pretty bad. One in three, multiplied by the collation of rares/mythics to commons/uncommons gives you 5.3%. That’s the drop rate for foil rares and mythics, about one in every 20 packs. 

To get the variant foil frame in rare or mythic will be .53%, or roughly one in 189 packs, and that’s for any rare or mythic with a non-EA frame, of which there are 36 to choose from. So that Borderless Foil Tiamat will appear in one out of every 6,804 Draft Boosters, give or take.

If you want another way to talk about these numbers, you’ll get a foil rare or mythic rare in a variant frame about once per case of Draft Boosters.

When it comes to Set Boosters, your odds are improved, but I’m sad to say that I don’t have enough information to give you a percentage. You start with a guaranteed foil, but they haven’t yet published enough information about the collations for me to know how they got the 27% for two rares, 3% for three rares, and less than 1% for four rares. 

If more information gets published, I will update this section. 

Collector Boosters are the main event, though. First of all, it’s the only place to get Extended Art versions of cards, though as we’ve seen, the foil versions of the Showcase frames aren’t plentiful either.

The big draw is going to be that first slot. A foil rare or mythic of anything special, and this we can indeed calculate:

BorderlessClassic ModuleMonster ManualExtended ArtTotals
# of Rares17153053
# of Mythics1102720

Given that rares are twice as common as mythics, your odds of any specific rare from these four categories is 1/63, and for a particular mythic it’s going to be 1/126.

This is in line with the ratios from Standard sets, but keep in mind that there are often special cases, like a Mystical Archive or a foil Phyrexian Vorinclex messing with our perceptions of scarcity. Let’s do some comparing:

Odds of a specific rareOdds of a specific mythic
Forgotten Realms1/631/126
Strixhaven 1/154.51/309
Kaldheim1/641/128
Modern Horizons 21/126.51/253

I don’t want to compare TSR here (no Collector Boosters) or Commander Legends (see gimmick below) but you can see that Forgotten Realms is going to play out a lot like Kaldheim did, only without the Vorinclex to be the chase card.

Also, the way that the Mystical Archive skewed the heck out of Strixhaven bugs me. Just a whole lot of rares crammed into one spot. Should have been 1/159 for mythics and 1/79.5 for rares. 

I’ve talked in other recent articles about how this set is going to fall fast, given the lack of truly chase/powerful cards, and I haven’t seen anything in the distribution of the set to make me think otherwise. Commander Legends had a gimmick where in one slot, your Collector Boosters had only a 30% chance to contain a Foil Extended Art card. They have upped that ratio considerably, thank goodness. 

However, keep in mind that if a set is viewed as underpowered or low value, then less people will open it, making it more scarce. That’s a fine line to walk, and I think we will have our chances at buying AFR at very low prices. Just be aware of the complications, which we will address with individual cards as we go forward.

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.

Preordering Adventures in the Forgotten Realms

There’s a whole lot of hype around the cool things that are being revealed with Adventures in the Forgotten Realms, and we can do some preordering already! Some of these look like fantastic deals, and some are definitely traps to avoid. Let’s dive in, shall we?

First of all, we need to get something out in the open: This set, so far, does not have a chase card. The most expensive card is going to be a cool Commander, and do a lot of work for Dragons in general, but we haven’t yet gotten the “HOLY HELL TAKE ALL MY MONEY” reveal that we’ve had: Ragavan/OBF fetches, the Mystical Archive, Phyrexian Foil Vorinclex, and so on.

None of the cards previewed are very expensive as yet, which speaks not just to the power level of the cards, but the artistic choices Wizards has made here. We aren’t going to do anything too amazing…yet. There’s still a week of previews to go, though!

Tiamat ($25) – This is currently the most expensive card you can preorder from the set, at twenty-five bucks! It’s hard to argue with what this card tells you to do as a Commander: Play lots of Dragons (Changelings!) and go find five of them every time you cast Tiamat. That’s hard to argue with as card advantage, and if you want to play some kind of five-color Dragons strategy, you’re either getting these cards or you’re playing The Ur-Dragon for the mana advantage.

I don’t think this price will hold, though. The formula for expensive cards involves being in demand across a lot of formats/decks. The commander is almost never the expensive card, and that doesn’t bode well for Tiamat’s future price. This will fall to $15 easily, more likely $10.

Demilich ($15) – This has real potential in decks that want to play lots of instants and sorceries, though you’ll never pay less than four mana all told. Theoretically with some free spells you can get there sooner, but Gitaxian Probe isn’t legal anywhere and you’ll have to work pretty hard. The ability to recur this card is a big plus for it, and it seems best suited to play with Arclight Phoenix decks. Please note that this doesn’t have flying or haste or anything. It’s just a 4/3 durdle on the ground, easily blocked and killed. This should drop in price by at least half, sadly.

Circle of Dreams Druid ($5) – This is a lot more than an auto-play for Elf decks in any format. It’s a fixed version of a totally busted Reserved List card. We have another fixed version of Gaea’s Cradle to compare with, though: Growing Rites of Itlimoc.

I don’t think I want to buy the Druid at $5, though. Everything has to go downwards, generally speaking, but the value in this set has to go someplace. Long-term, I think this card has fantastic potential and I want lots of copies in my spec box, I just don’t want to buy at this price. I will be watching this closely to see what happens early on–this could be one of the fastest risers in the set because it goes so well into a range of decks and formats.

Sphere of Annihilation (AFR)

Sphere of Annihilation (75 cents or so) – Honestly, this is a card that various flavors of control decks have wanted for a long time. I genuinely think this is underpriced, given the flexibility it offers. It’s going to get a lot of use at an X-value of one or two, and if they go over the top at three, that’s what your targeted kill spells are for. Opponents also won’t play into it, giving you that much more time. Control decks crave time, as they have the resources and per-card power to win the long game. I’m a big fan of what this offers, and while I’m not yet ready to buy in, this is another card that I’ll be watching closely.

Tasha’s Hideous Laughter ($4) – If you think Modern Mill is a viable strategy now, here’s your happiest of days. Lurrus of the Dream-Den decks are all over the place in Modern, and while their spells are not costing two or less, Modern as a format is really getting faster and faster. Everyone wants to cost less, to get under the competition. Tasha’s Hideous Laughter is the punishment for embracing that mindset.

Again, I’m not buying yet, but we’ve seen the legs that some mill cards can have, and this is a spell that will be very popular for people who like to do that. I’d prefer to buy in at a buck or less, but this is a spell that puts stars in peoples’ eyes about what it ‘could’ be, not what it is. Note that it’s ‘each opponent’, for those of you who like to use this strategy in Commander games. Godspeed.

Cave of the Frost Dragon ($1.50) and the other new creaturelands (less) – This has been a banner year for creaturelands, I don’t think we’ve ever had so many in Standard before. Crawling Barrens, then Faceless Haven, and now a cycle of five that are all good at what they do. The white, blue, and black ones all make sense, the red one is great in an all-in attacking deck, and we haven’t gotten the green one yet. Celestial Colonnade and Creeping Tar Pit are still the best around given their pedigrees, but what’s surprising to me is that neither of the colorless lands have made a big impact on Standard. Is it just because control decks aren’t great right now, and we need rotation to make them good again? We shall see. 

You’re going to be able to get these lands for near-bulk prices, and that’s going to be very tempting. Problem is, it’s difficult to predict which of these five colors will be the one that’s played a lot after rotation in the fall. If you feel confident that you can pick the winner, go for it. With seven creaturelands, I don’t think I can snag the one, and the return isn’t worth picking up a brick of each. If they are all a dime each, and you buy 7 bricks of 100 each, the one that hits needs to be bought for 70 cents each for you to just break even. Plus, we’re talking rares, not mythics, and there will be a whole lot of these out there. It’s not worth it, I advocate 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.