Category Archives: Casual Fridays

The Math Of Throne of Eldraine and Theros: Beyond Death

While Throne of Eldraine has been out for several years, it represents the first set with Collector Boosters and therefore, the first time we had a real change in booster packs. Now we could get regular nonfoils, regular foils, Showcase/Extended Art nonfoils, and Showcase/Extended Art foils, the latter of which quickly became THE cards to have in Commander decks. Theros: Beyond Death follows suit, witha special slot for the Constellation foils

We’ve gotten a lot of variations on frames and special subsets since ELD came out, but I’ve had a few requests to run the math on the first sets and see how rare things were from those boosters, as compared to more recent sets.

So with that in mind, let’s do some Fae math!

Throne of Eldraine was the first set to systematically use Extended Art frames. Until then, we did get frameless/borderless treatments, but those always had new art. Extended Art was the same art as the original card, just zoomed in a little to show off more. It also turns the card type into white-text-on-black-background, a reverse of the card name. 

Impressively, Wizards showed some restraint when launching this project. Every card had exactly one variation:

Card Frame# at Rare# at Mythic
Regular5315
Borderless03
Showcase52
EA4810

You could get one of four versions of the card, ranging from most common (regular nonfoil) to most out there (special foil) and the prices of the cards reflects this range.

In the Collector Booster, Wizards had “One slot with 1 foil rare/mythic rare.” Given the incredible shenanigans of a Mystic Archive, Phyrexian Text, or the Lost Legends, this seems almost quaint. Thankfully for us, it’s also very easy to calculate the odds of pulling the more chase cards.

We know that Wizards follows a 10:3:1:0.5 rarity ratio when it comes to commons/uncommons/rares/mythic rares. That means there will be two of any rare for every one of a mythic, and the numbers are simple: 2×53 plus 15 is 121, but doubled because we’ve got all the regular foils and all the special frame foils.

It’s therefore that any particular foil rare is 1:121 to come out of a ELD Collector Booster, and any given foil mythic is 1:242. Interestingly, you have the same odds to pull a regular foil The Great Henge as you do an Extended Art version, but we’ve made the special frame that much more expensive.

Theros: Beyond Death is also a very straightforward calculation, made slightly more complicated by some of the choices Wizards made with the Showcase Constellation frames. Very little of this set is done with different art, something that they don’t really do anymore. 

Frame# at rare# at mythic
Regular5315
Borderless PW03
Showcase06
EA505

Sagas have no special version, and that’s why the numbers don’t add up cleanly. 

Luckily, Wizards had a handy graphic for what was in these boosters, explaining how Constellation cards wouldn’t be in the same slot as FEA cards.

One slot has the foil Demigods, Gods, and Borderless Planeswalkers. The Demigods are all uncommon, which means there’s six of each in the pool of cards for that slot, and only one of each mythic. You have a 1:39 chance to pull a specific foil mythic from that slot, and a 1:5 chance to get a specific foil Demigod.

That leaves only Foil Extended Art in the other foil slot, and with 50 rares and 5 mythics, plus the regular foils, the total pool of possible cards is 226. That means 1:226 for any particular foil mythic, and 1:113 for any given foil rare.

Card/SetCollector Boosters to open one (approx.)Card/SetCollector Boosters to open one (approx.)
Extended Art Foil The Great Henge (ELD)242Constellation Foil Klothys, God of Destiny (THB)39
Extended Art Foil Nyxbloom Ancient (THB)226Extended Art Foil Thassa’s Oracle (THB)113
Phyrexian Foil Vorinclex (KHM)256Foil Etched Food Chain (2X2)280
Japanese- Language Alternate Art Time Warp Foil (STX:MA)309Red Soft Glow Hidetsugu (NEO)1,828
Foil Extended Art The Meathook Massacre (MID)151Phyrexian Foil Sheoldred, the Apocalypse (DMU)346
Foil Fang Frame Sorin, the Mirthless by Ayami Kojima (VOW)171Phyrexian Foil Ajani, Sleeper Agent (DMU)692
Extended Art Foil Jeweled Lotus (CMR)400Foil Alternate-Art Teferi, Temporal Pilgrim (BRO)299
Phyrexian Foil Urabrask, Heretic Praetor (SNC)492Retro Foil Sulfuric Vortex (DMR)70
Borderless Foil Ancient Brass Dragon (CLB)352Retro Foil Sneak Attack (DMR)140
Phyrexian foil (or foil-etched) Jin-Gitaxias (NEO)544Borderless Foil or Retro Foil Force of Will (DMR)280

We can see that these first two Booster Fun sets have drop rates that are better than most of the more recent sets, when it comes to the most desired versions of chase cards. Nothing is extra-rare, even the mythics. It’s much easier to grasp these sets that have only a single special frame, instead of having a Showcase AND a Phyrexian AND a Borderless.

Eldraine and Theros cards have had some time for the prices to settle out, and we have a clear picture of what the cards go for. Those reprints should affect the prices, even things like Brazen Borrower being in The List, so plan accordingly. 

My Best And Worst of 2022

It’s always worthwhile to sit down every now and again, reflecting on one’s best practices.

I want to walk you through my best and worst purchases and recommendations this year. Note that the two aren’t always inclusive of each other, as I don’t like to use my articles to trumpet my own buys and try to influence the outcome. If I am buying something I’m writing about, I try to be very clear on my current/planned holdings.

I’m trying to focus just on what I did this year, so selling things that I bought in years past doesn’t really apply, sad to say.

Let’s get to it.

Best Buys that I made

Jan 2022 – Garruk’s Uprising (M21 Showcase foil) – 45 copies @ $1.40 each

I am someone who generally doesn’t go for the big spec purchase. Mostly, my buys on TCG are restricted by ease and what I’ve put back in from other sales, and tend to be around $100. NM foils for the Showcase are going on TCG for around $2.50 each now, with a copy or two per day, a velocity I’m quite pleased by. Buylists haven’t caught up on the foils yet, but I’m confident I’ll be selling these as a stack to someone in 2023 for around $2.50/copy.

Jan 2022 – Haven of the Spirit Dragon (DTK pack foil) – 4 copies @ $11, sold 10/2022 @ $18

I mentioned these in my article from 1/14/2022 and took the value when they went up later in the year. The price has come back down a little, which always makes me feel good about taking my proflt and moving on to the next card.

March 2022 – Secret Lair x Street Fighter (foil) – 8 copies @$50 each

Secret Lairs sting because of tax, get to add another 10% for that here in California. Still, these are going for just over $70 on TCG, buoyed by the Hadoken version of Lightning Bolt that’s going for $14 on its own

April 2022 – Ghoulish Procession (Double Feature Silver Screen Foil) – 8 copies @ $3 each

I went in on a few DBL foils earlier in the year when it became apparent that there wasn’t a lot out there getting opened. Cheapest NM copies on TCG are at $5.50 and growing. If you need fodder for sacrificing or other shenanigans, this is pretty easy to trigger consistently.

Worst Buys that I made

April 2022 – Scalding Tarn Retro Frame Foil (MH2) – 4 @ $67 each

Fetchlands have become remarkably cheap thanks to the surprising among of Modern Horizons 2 Collector Boosters that have been opened over the last year. I thought we’d hit a floor in April, but remarkably, prices for most of the set have kept going down as the chase mythics have gone up. Fetches have a lot of choices, some impressively cheap. These regular foils are down to $45, and the Etched Foil Retro Frame are under $30! For a Scalding Tarn, a card that was regularly pushing $100!

You may be sure I’m quite glad I didn’t go deeper on these lands.

August 2022 – Dominaria United Collector Booster Case @ $1300 – I thought that the Lost Legends inclusions would lead to some very chase prices, and I made this purchase before I was able to do the math on just how rare those things would be. Prices went south right away, and the first chance I get to get out for $1100, I’m going to take the loss and move on.

My Best Recommendations

1/28/2002 – Eidolon of Blossoms (JOU Foil) @ $3, went to $9, now $7

It’s a good feeling to get a triple-up within a year of recommending a card. Eidolon is an engine piece for a very popular theme, it’s single-colored, and hopefully you were able to sell at the peak. Even selling now and getting the double-up would be a winner. Don’t ever be afraid to take your profits and move on.

5/13/2022 – Treasure Cruise (TSR Retro Foil) @ $33, currently $45 and rising

Pretty straightforward for all the reasons that I listed. Time Spiral: Remastered is a set that used quite a gimmick to goose the Retro Foils to impressive heights, and Cruise is a card that’s still Pioneer legal. We’re getting our first Retro border reprints now, in Yawgmoth, Thran Physician, plus Urza, Lord High Artificer, and I’ll be curious to see how many more of those we get going forward. 

6/10/2022 – Kindred Discovery (CLB Extended Art Foil) @ $20, said to wait and let it drop, now $5.

This is a card I wanted to buy very badly because it’s so so so good in the theme decks I love, such as Dragons and Zombies. However, I knew that buying it early was a formula for disaster, and waiting has proven me correct. I didn’t think it would go all the way to $5, but here we are and I’m likely to pick up a few now that they are so darn cheap.

My Worst Recommendations

04/15/2022 – Xorn (CLB Showcase Foil) @ $4, currently $2

The Monster Manual editions of cards have turned out to be a flop. There’s a subset of Magic players that go absolutely gonzo for them, and I imagine there’s a lot of the Magic/D&D overlap working at Wizards right now, but the prices speak the truth about what the wider audience says: that art style isn’t going to come back unless it’s hyper-collectible, like the Here Be Dragons Secret Lair. 

Treasures have turned out to be one of the more popular and useful things to do in Magic, and Xorn giving extras ought to have led to increases in prices. Prices have fallen hard since the set came out, though, and this version is especially cheap.

5/13/2022 – Panharmonicon (TSR Retro Foil) @ $40, currently $28 and sinking

Sadly, one of my favorite cards is also one of my worst recommendations of the year. I didn’t see the double reprint coming at all. I figured that with the blueprint version in Secret Lairs, plus this version, we were pretty set. Just a few weeks after I wrote this, we got regular, borderless, and foil-etched copies in Double Masters 2022, followed more recently by a reprint in Jumpstart 2022. That’s a double-dip for a card that has the Commander demand to survive repeated reprints, but they need to give it some time to breathe. 

Picking from Baldur’s Gate at the end of the year

My new rule is six months. I don’t consider buying cards for long-term growth until six months after release, and wouldn’t you know it, we’re at six months post-Commander Legends: Battle of Baldur’s Gate. I’ve learned through hard and expensive experience that I don’t want to buy cards until the floor, and it takes several months to find that floor now.

Let’s go over some cards from the set, and discuss how the price fell and fell and fell, and then decide which merit being a pick up from a vastly underpowered and poorly-selling set.

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We need to start out with the obvious: This set was underpowered for Commander, and undersold. That doesn’t mean everything is cheap, though. Here’s the entire list of cards worth more than $10 right now in nonfoil:

Fourteen cards on this list, while Streets of New Capenna has nine cards, and even Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty has seven. Granted, Baldur’s Gate cards have the assorted variations of the same four Dragons as different entries here, but these are still valid hits on pack openings. 

What we are looking for is that mix of cards that are good in Commander, based on their EDHREC inclusion, aren’t too expensive, and perhaps have some Eternal applications. I don’t worry about Standard these days, and you shouldn’t spec based on that format either.

Remember that EDHREC data is useful but it is also flawed: There’s a bias towards preconstructed deck inclusions, and it only represents the people invested enough to list every single card of theirs. I haven’t listed any of my decks, for instance.

With all of this in mind, let’s look at cards, keeping in mind that for most of these, the Monster Manual Showcase versions are definitely cheaper. If you like those versions, you can stock up, but the prices speak to the average player having a disdain for that, even if it’s cheaper.

Decanter of Endless Water (a quarter to $2.50) – This is strange to me, and I’ve been having difficulty figuring out what is up with this card. The regular version sells 7-8 copies a day around $2, while the foil moves slower. This is clearly for everyone who loves drawing endless cards, but this wasn’t in the precon decks. It’s just popular. If it stays popular, this is probably a buylist play: buy 100 copies for around 30 cents, and when they hit $1.50, sell them all to a buylist for $1 each. Even better if you live near a store, save on shipping!

Jaheira, Friend of the Forest (30 cents to $2) – Giving all tokens this ability to tap for green mana is pretty outstanding, because it’s not just creature tokens, it’s everything. Jace, Mirror Mage tokens. Treasures, Food, Clues! All of them are now Mox Emeralds. There’s already a lot of combos here, and everything that makes tokens gets better with this. I love that sort of open-ended synergy, and I think that this is worth buying in on.

Astral Dragon ($4, no foils) – This set not only gave us the outstanding cycle of Ancient Dragons, but also a few accessory Dragons that I really like long-term. Being from the Commander deck, there’s no foils here or for Brainstealer, but this is another combo-centric card. I’ve already used this on a wide variety of board states, and been pleased at every turn. I fully expect this to be some weird combo in the future, as what it does is quite unique.

Brainstealer Dragon ($3, no foils) – Getting cards for free is exactly what you want from a seven-drop. Sure it’s already a big flyer, but at end of turn, you’re going to exile three cards and be able to play them whenever you want, using any color of mana, and dealing damage to its owner when you do. Winner all around, a cheap card and one I want to have in stock going forward.

Wrathful Red Dragon ($1.50 to $3) – Dragons don’t generally need ‘don’t mess with me’ cards but it’s always nice to have a card that says ‘Even if you block, you’re going to take a pile of damage.’ I also like how this breaks the mirror match for Dragon decks, or turns your Scourge of Kher Ridges into ‘target player takes a boatload of damage.’ For this card, we can get Extended Art foils for crazy cheap, and considering how popular Dragon decks are, this is one of the best to be playing.

Monster Manual ($1.50 to $3) – Quicksilver Amulet has been printed to dust, and will never recover. This is clearly an upgrade, and carries the downside of needing green mana. Still, green decks tend to be chock-full of giant creatures that want to be cheated into play, and this is a great way to do that. Again, we can get the premium foil version for cheap, and that’s where I want to be.

Gond Gate ($1) and Baldur’s Gate (50 cents to $2) – Gate decks will have their day in the sun again. Purchasing these is a gift to yourself when we get our next trip to Ravnica, where both shocklands and Gates will be present yet again. These two Gates are heavily synergistic, and the Gond Gate nullifying Gates’ disadvantage is a big big deal. These sell at a brisk pace now, so stock up while you can.

Nautiloid Ship ($4 to $8) – I know Jason’s mentioned this card once or twice, so let me just add my voice, that this is a phenomenal card and incredibly unfair. A 5/5 flyer with crew 3 is not difficult to get in a hit with, and you don’t even have to hit the player whose graveyard you exiled. Just a fantastic card and one that should be getting a lot more play.

Artificer Class ($5, no foils) – Granted, there’s a long long list of ‘blue cards that are auto-includes in artifact themed decks’ but this deserves to be on the list. It’s not as broken as Foundry Inspector at Level 1, but it gets so much better as you level up. Two mana to draw your next artifact is good, six mana to copy artifacts is outright broken.

Vexing Puzzlebox ($3 to $6) – We’ve gotten a lot of fun with d20 cards, and this one allows for an easy payoff. People aren’t quite as asleep on this mythic, since the FEA is $6, but it’s pretty easy to have this tap to search up an artifact every other turn or so, especially if one of your early finds is for Unwinding Clock or the like. Every dice-rolling card makes this better, so I want to have a few ready for our next set that features the ability.

The Math Of Dominaria Remastered

I know that in the current environment, it’s tough to keep track of everything that’s coming out. We’re bombarded every other week or so with previews, leaks, and spoilers, for Secret Lairs, Jumpstarts, Remastered sets, you name it.

Even so, it is my honor to report that there’s a relatively straightforward reprint set coming out January 13, 2023. It’s got some hot reprints, the mythics of which I covered last week, but today I want to break down your odds of pulling the cards you want most. 

So let’s get into the math of the thing, and that’ll allow us to figure out if we want to buy Collector Boosters or singles.

This is the breakdown of what’s in a Collector Booster, and as a result, we can see that all the value is concentrated in the slot with the traditional foil retro frame cards or borderless versions. Lots of sets have variations, but this one is just retro and borderless and that’s it.

Let’s lay out which are which, in terms of rarity and frame.

Retro Frame Rare (60)Retro Frame Mythic (20)Borderless Rare (23)Borderless Mythic (17)
Divine Sacrament
Enlightened Tutor
Glory
Lieutenant Kirtar
Sevinne’s Reclamation
Windborn Muse
Wrath of God
Arcanis the Omnipotent
Denizen of the Deep
Mystic Remora
Mystical Tutor
Opposition
Stroke of Genius
Vexing Sphinx
Body Snatcher
Chainer, Dementia Master
Entomb
Mindslicer
Nantuko Shade
Oversold Cemetery
Royal Assassin
Gamble
Grim Lavamancer
Overmaster
Pashalik Mons
Shivan Dragon
Siege-Gang Commander
Sulfuric Vortex
Arboria
Birds of Paradise
Exploration
Forgotten Ancient
Jolrael, Mwonvuli Recluse
Saproling Symbiosis
Worldly Tutor
Absorb
Arcades Sabboth
Decimate
Phantom Nishoba
Pyre Zombie
Rith, the Awakener
Sol’kanar the Swamp King
Lyra Dawnbringer
Serra Avatar
Test of Endurance
Force of Will
Time Stretch
Urza, Lord High Artificer
No Mercy
Vampiric Tutor
Yawgmoth, Thran Physician
Last Chance
Sneak Attack
Worldgorger Dragon
Kamahl, Fist of Krosa
Nut Collector
Sylvan Library
Hunting Grounds
Gauntlet of Power
Legacy Weapon
Urza’s Incubator
Dark Depths
Enlightened Tutor
Windborn Muse
Wrath of God
Denizen of the Deep
Mystic Remora
Mystical Tutor
Chainer, Dementia Master
Entomb
Oversold Cemetery
Gamble
Grim Lavamancer
Siege-Gang Commander
Arboria
Birds of Paradise
Worldly Tutor
Absorb
Decimate
Helm of Awakening
Jester’s Cap
Lotus Blossom
Triskelion
Gemstone Mine
Maze of Ith
Lyra Dawnbringer
Test of Endurance
Force of Will
Time Stretch
Urza, Lord High Artificer
No Mercy
Vampiric Tutor
Yawgmoth, Thran Physician
Last Chance
Worldgorger Dragon
Nut Collector
Sylvan Library
Hunting Grounds
Gauntlet of Power
Legacy Weapon
Urza’s Incubator
Dark Depths

Every rare and mythic has a retro version, and 1/3 of the rares also have a borderless. For the mythics, all of them have both a borderless and a retro, except for Serra Avatar, Sneak Attack, and Kamahl, Fist of Krosa.

Given that Wizards is making it easier and easier to build an all-retro-frame Commander deck or Cube, I’m not shocked that there’s a lot more retro than borderless here.

Usually, Wizards collates things so that all copies of a card’s variants total the same amount. That does not appear to be the case this time. When looking over mass cracking data from vendor partners, the variant ratio on non-foil Retro to Borderless, for cards that have both does not look to be equal. Rather, the split seems to be closer to 2 Borderless for every 1 Retro version of a card like Sylvan Library that has both. This effectively means that mythics with both retro and borderless are twice as populous and that the variants don’t split the drop rate as we typically see in CBs.

For example, in the # of CBs one vendor opened, they pulled:

12 Retro Sylvan Library
23 Borderless Sylvan Library
12 Retro Sneak Attack

This suggests that there are actually 3x as many of the mythics and rares that have 2 variants vs. the ones that only have a retro version.

I suspect this is a goof, rather than a change in policy, but as we work with incomplete information, we will update accordingly.

As always, we’re operating on the basic premise that the ratios for cards are the same as a Draft Booster: 10 commons, 3 uncommons, 1 rare or a 50% chance of being a mythic. That’s a 10:3:1:0.5 ratio, but to make things easy, I double it to 20:6:2:1. Translated, for every mythic, there’s 20 copies of a common, there’s 6 uncommons, and two rares.

We’ve got 60 retro rares, 23 borderless rares, 20 retro mythics and 17 borderless mythics, all of which are guaranteed to be foil in this slot. One thing to remember is that the total number of copies is the same for each card at each rarity, even if there’s less version. For example, If this set puts 300 of each mythic out there, that means there’s 150 of the Borderless Foil Lyra Dawnbringer, 150 of the Retro Foil Lyra Dawnbringer, and 300 Retro Foil Sneak Attack.

So when we’re calculating drop rates in this slot, we need to be cognizant of the different versions available.  We also know from vendor experience that the cards with one variant frame are appearing around half as often as the cards with both.

I have changed the table to reflect this.

Chance for getting that card (any version)Chance for getting a specific frameEstimated number of Collector Booster boxes needed for specific frame
Rare with one frame1/701/705.8
Rare with two frames1/701/14011.7
Mythic with one frame1/2801/28023.4
Mythic with two frames1/1401/28023.3

So with this trick of giving almost all the mythics a second frame, they halved the drop rate for each frame. It’s also a great way to keep the price high for the special versions of a card, even if the price for the regular frame drops precipitously. 

A drop rate of one every 280 packs for the rarest mythics is not far off from most of the other sets we’ve had recently, and this set is notably lacking in a subset or a super-mega-rare. There’s no serialized versions, no Lost Legends, no alt-art Japanese Mystical Archive. Let’s have a comparison with other recent sets:

Card/SetCollector Boosters to open one (approx.)Card/SetCollector Boosters to open one (approx.)
Phyrexian Foil Vorinclex (KHM)256Foil Etched Food Chain (2X2)280
Japanese- Language Alternate Art Time Warp Foil (STX:MA)309Red Soft Glow Hidetsugu (NEO)1,828
Foil Extended Art The Meathook Massacre (MID)151Phyrexian Foil Sheoldred, the Apocalypse (DMU)346
Foil Fang Frame Sorin, the Mirthless by Ayami Kojima (VOW)171Phyrexian Foil Ajani, Sleeper Agent (DMU)692
Extended Art Foil Jeweled Lotus (CMR)400Foil Alternate-Art Teferi, Temporal Pilgrim (BRO)299
Phyrexian Foil Urabrask, Heretic Praetor (SNC)492Retro Foil Sulfuric Vortex (DMR)70
Borderless Foil Ancient Brass Dragon (CLB)352Retro Foil Sneak Attack (DMR)140
Phyrexian foil (or foil-etched) Jin-Gitaxias (NEO)544Borderless Foil or Retro Foil Force of Will (DMR)280

Things being not-quite-as-rare to pull from packs doesn’t mean they will be common, though. Remember that this is a reprint set, in between two major releases. I am not expecting this to be a hugely opened set right away, but the initial burst of product, plus the trickle of remaining boxes to open, should keep prices down for a while. As I said last week, I’m not expecting to buy any spec copies for several months, but feel free to grab all the personal copies you want right 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.