Category Archives: Casual Fridays

The Math of Commander Masters

Another set, another set of calculations. Thankfully, this is a bit easier than some other sets have been. No super-mega-rare serialized cards, no funky subsets or weird collations. Commander Masters has extra-expensive booster packs, though, so let’s get into the types, the frames, the foiling, and what your chances are when you crack open a fresh pack.

Please keep in mind that I’m working with the best data possible. I’m confident in this set of outcomes, given what I have, but if they change things or have big mistakes, I’ll update this as best I can when I can.

This may seem overly obvious, but more expensive packs means more expensive singles. These Collector Boosters have trickled down in price, and are now around $50 each, and the variance on these can be very swingy indeed. It’s pretty amazing that you’re guaranteed very little for the cost of your Collector Booster, it’s even just one of the retro frame lands in foil! 

Most of my information comes from the Collecting Commander Masters article, and let’s start with the two small variants we get in this set: Textured Foils and Borderless Framebreak. The Framebreak is part of being Borderless, so don’t be surprised when Framebreak is left out of the posts.

Textured Foil (Profiles + Lotus)Traditional Foil Framebreaks
UncommonSol Ring
RareFierce Guardianship
Deflecting Swat
Deadly Rollick
Obscuring Haze
Flawless Maneuver
MythicThe Ur-Dragon
Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger
Kozilek, the Great Distortion 
Morophon, the Boundless
Urza, Lord High Artificer
Mikaeus the Unhallowed
Neheb, the Eternal
Omnath, Locus of Mana
Selvala, Heart of the Wilds
Jeweled Lotus
Balefire Dragon
Demonic Tutor
Finale of Devastation
Smothering Tithe
Jeweled Lotus

Note that Lotus can show up in the final slot twice. Once as a trad foil framebreak, and once as a textured foil framebreak. Usually, Wizards alters numbers in circulation so that no one card is more numerous than others, total copies should be the same from mythic to mythic. A few less traditional foil, but that many textured foil added in. Also worthwhile to note that the foil Framebreak Sol Ring will pop up in one of the middle slots, about every 38 packs. That won’t be a super-rare pull.

Here’s the official list of what’s in a Collector Booster, with the top line being the last card in the pack.

One thing that I’ve learned over the years of calculations is that Wizards is generally going to put two rares out there for every one mythic. So when I’m calculating how many options there are in a given slot, I take the number of rares times two and then add the number of mythics. For example, in the Foil-Etched slot, there’s 135 rares, times two is 270. Plus the 35 mythics and that’s my pool of 305 cards. For any specific mythic, you have a 1/305 chance, and a 2/305 for any particular rare.

There are two additional pieces of data in the article that have direct bearing on the math I’m doing. First is that the textured foils are only 4% of pulls from that last slot. With ten options, we know that any given textured foil card is therefore 0.4%, or if you take the reciprocal, one out of 250 packs.

The other important piece of information is that for the third slot, with the EA and FEA cards, we’re outright told that you’ve got a 20% chance of pulling a foil card from that slot, and I’ve built those numbers into the table below. Feel free to check my math and reach out in the Discord or on Twitter.

Here’s the table with the odds for each of the last three slots in a Collector Booster, where the bigger money cards should be.

Type of Card (number of possible cards)RarityPercent chance for any card of that categoryPercent chance for a specific card of that category# of Collector Boosters needed to open for that card
Textured foil (10)Mythic4%0.4%250
Borderless traditional foil (9)Mythic15.7%1.7%57.2
Borderless traditional foil (23)Rare80.3%3.5%28.6
Foil etched (35)Mythic11.4%0.33%305
Foil etched (135)Rare88.6%0.66%152.5
Extended-art nonfoil (7)Mythic8.89%1.27%78.75
Extended-art nonfoil (28)Rare71.1%2.54%39.375
Foil Extended Art (7)Mythic2.2%0.32%315
Foil Extended Art (28)Rare17.78%0.63%157.5

That’s some impressive numbers, especially as you consider that the retail price for a single Collector Booster is around 2-3x the price of regular Standard sets. One Textured Foil Jeweled Lotus represents about $12,000 in product. 

It’s worth noting that the rarest pulls are not the textured foils, but are instead the FEA mythics. It’s good to know what’s hard to pull, but we also need to know what’s going to show up a lot, and in this case, it’s the borderless rares, including the free spells. I wouldn’t buy any of these early, because we’re about to get a surprising number of these. Opening these packs means hitting any borderless rare in just under 8 of 10 packs, and getting one of the five ‘Commander = free’ spells every 8th pack or so. If you only care about Fierce Guardianship, that’s about every 29 packs.

Some cards needing 250 or even 315 packs sounds like a lot until you take a look at how the books were cooked in previous sets. Keep in mind the much higher price point for Commander Masters, though: 

Card/treatment/setApprox. number of CBs needed to find one copy
Elven Sol Ring (Serialized xxx/300) (LTR)11,111
Dwarven Sol Ring (xxx/700) (LTR)4,762
Human Sol Ring (xxx/900) (LTR)3,704
Surge Foil The Party Tree (The Great Henge) (LTR)3,846
Ring Frame Foil Tom Bombadil (LTR)120
Borderless Scene Foil The One Ring  (LTR)103.45
Halo Foil Planar Frame Sigarda, Font of Blessings (Rare) (MAT)180
Halo Foil Planar Frame Sarkhan, Soul Aflame (Mythic Rare) (MAT)360
Serialized Foil Double Rainbow Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer (MUL)10,010
Traditional Foil Planar Frame Sheoldred, Whispering One (MUL)100
Etched Planar Foil Atraxa, Praetors’ Voice (MUL)535.7
Halo Foil Niv-Mizzet Reborn (MUL)750
Traditional Foil Borderless Wrenn and Realmbreaker (MOM)219
Traditional Foil Extended Art Guardian Scalelord (MOC)109.5

And with that in mind, let’s look at some example cards from Commander Masters:

Card/treatment/setApprox. number of CBs needed to find one copy
Textured Foil Jeweled Lotus (CMM)250
Borderless Traditional Foil Grave Pact (CMM)57.2
Borderless Traditional Foil Fierce Guardianship (CMM)28.6
Foil Etched Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger (CMM)305
Foil Etched Flawless Maneuver (CMM)152.5
Extended-Art Nonfoil Narci, Fable Singer (CMM)78.75
Extended-Art Nonfoil Rise of the Eldrazi (CMM)39.375
Foil Extended Art Sliver Gravemother (CMM)315
Foil Extended Art Ondu Spiritdancer (CMM)157.5

If you have further questions about these results or my methods, please feel free to hit me up on Twitter or in the ProTrader Discord. Good luck with your packs!

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.

Commander Masters’ Preconstructed Omissions

Ever since we knew Commander Masters was coming, we’ve known the themes of the four Commander decks that are being sold alongside the set. After this week’s previews, we know what’s in the preconstructed decks, and it’s time to review what they left out. Some of these were a big surprise, and others were at least a little defensible. For some of these cards, there’s already been a run on the card, and that’ll be addressed too.

Please keep in mind for all of these cards, they dodged a reprint in Commander Masters but that doesn’t mean they won’t get tagged again in an upcoming Secret Lair or special set or who the hell knows. All bets are off, considering how cards can be reprinted twice in an eight-week period. (The Great Henge and Sword of the Animist come to mind!)

There’s also a chance that these don’t spike until players get the Commander decks in hand. Hard to tell what’ll happen, but if these are getting bought, built, and played, at least some of these will rise in value.

Eye of Ugin ($35 for the currently cheapest version ranging to $100 for the current most expensive) – I called this on the MTG Fast Finance podcast in late March, at least Expedition versions, to hit $100 because people would want to upgrade their copies. I didn’t even consider the idea that they would leave this card out entirely, which is why every version has gone up. I’d be selling into this hype.

Emrakul, the Promised End ($50 to $130) – There’s ways to abuse this card, but I’m really surprised that they left this out of the deck. It’s gone up twenty bucks since the deck was previewed, and it might not be done rising. Again, with that kind of increase, I’m keeping one personal copy and selling all the rest.

Sanctum of Ugin ($1.50 to $8) – There hasn’t been a run on this yet, and there will be. Getting nonfoils now is good, especially if you’re hoping for a brick/buylist exit. It won’t be hard to lock in gains once people start moving on to the new targets.

Conduit of Ruin ($2 to $10) – Two really good abilities, and they left the card out of the deck. Tough choices to be made, I know, but damn. Stock up while you can.

Ugin, the Spirit Dragon ($16 to $80) – Ugin is a tremendously unfair card in colorless decks. There are few feelings in Magic like exiling all the annoying stuff on the board but keeping every single one of your precious cards. He’s been printed a whole bunch, but Mythic Edition being down to $75 after being sold for $200 on release is hard to argue with, at least for personal copies. One vendor has a wall of 73 copies at $75, so this price might stick for a while. Note that this was the eBay snafu Mythic Edition, with the War of the Spark uncut sheets going out to folks.

Sliver Hive ($25 to $250) – One of the most egregious omissions from all four decks, what the hell were they thinking? It’s a perfect five-color land, for fixing and for Sliver multiplication. 

Sliver Overlord ($55 to $275) – They couldn’t reprint all the five-color Slivers, so the ones that got left out are climbing. Overlord is traditionally the Commander for the deck, due to fun interactions with Amoeboid Changeling (make their creature a Sliver, then perma-steal it) and the ability to go find the Sliver you need.

The First Sliver ($40 to $50) – Available as low as $25 just in February, it’s about doubled because the cascading goodness is super fun. Only thing better than getting a Sliver is getting one of its friends.

Root Sliver ($3 to $30) – This missed a reprint, but if you hate getting your Slivers countered, as most players do, this is your guy. Original foils and SL foils still available, though the Legions foil from 20 years ago has that OG frame that boomers like me love.

Shadow Sliver ($1 to $10) – Is this bad if you want to block? Yes. Does it evade every damn thing they want to do? Also yes. Bounce or sacrifice it as needed, thank me later.

Kindred Summons ($6) – I adore this card in swarm decks. You need a real critical mass to do this right, and that’s what Slivers excel at. Do you have five Slivers in play? Well now you’ve got five more and five new abilities! Important to note that the tokens you have totally count, so go to town with this card.

Coat of Arms ($16 to $100) – This is another card that hearkens back to the era of ‘It’s good for everyone at the table, but REALLY good for me.’ Yes, other typal decks will love you, but the buff your little chitterers get is second to none.

Idyllic Tutor ($5 to $60) – A cheap tutor for the deck and they didn’t want to reprint it. Weird.

Weaver of Harmony (75¢ to $2) – A buff and a copy ability? Get in cheap while you can. I advocate for the Neon frame, because it looks so much cooler.

Argothian Enchantress ($25 to $250) – Last seen in Eternal Masters, this would have been a great way to goose the value in the deck, but now you can go grab copies while they are relatively cheap. There’s been a lot of sales under $30 lately, so watch out for further movement.

Karametra, God of Harvests ($2 to $12) – I’d go for the Secret Lair copies here. If you’ve never played with repeated land-finding this way, I strongly suggest you do so. Enchantments are hungry for mana, and you’ll have enough creatures to make this worthwhile.

Inexorable Tide ($12 to $25) – One of our mods described a different card as ‘dodging reprints like it’s Neo in the Matrix dodging bullets’ and given that we just had a proliferate mechanic in a set, plus this planeswalker deck, it’s pretty amazing. There’s a lot of copies out there, but when regular copies are pushing $20 in two weeks, don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Farewell ($10 to $25) – Bonus points if you play a different-language version, because they are all amazing to shout as you exile everything but your totally-not-going-to-take-over-now planeswalkers. We’re far enough past NEO that this is a good spec, but a very reprintable one. Tread carefully.

All Will Be One ($11 to $30) – Now it’s possible that the designers of the deck just didn’t have access to this card, but I don’t care. It’s one of the most disgusting things you can do in superfriends/proliferate, tossing damage around in big and small chunks. I’d suggest Oil-Slick first.

Arena Rector ($13 to $50) – Again, they didn’t want to include a tutor for this card type? Bless their hearts. All versions are up a little since the preview, but there’s still plenty of meat on this bone.

Ascend from Avernus (50¢ to $2) – There aren’t a lot of ways to mass reanimate planeswalkers, and this one is going to need lots of mana, but it’s very much worth it. Remember, you get them ALL back. Go get your FEA copies now. 

Comeuppance ($8) – A niche card, yes, but one dear to my heart. Teferi’s Protection is more versatile, I agree, but this one is a fog plus a reverse damage plus a damn sweet name. Just try it out, you’ll see what I mean. Especially when people look at your open mana, some of it blue, and think you’re holding up countermagic so they go to attack, and BOOM, you got them.

Heart of Kiran (50¢ to $6) – Once upon a time, it was $25 when it ruled Standard. Now it can be yours for less than bubble gum. Very useful card in the deck.

Whirlwind of Thought (25¢ to $4) – You’re playing a lot of noncreature spells. Make them all cantrip. Important to note that this was in March of the Machine’s precons, so focus on the FEA versions from Ikoria in the $4 range.

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 Signals and Problems with Commander Masters

Previews for Commander Masters are in full swing, and I’m pretty excited. I love a different draft format and I really love a chance to buy staples when they get to their lowest price in years. What I’m also noticing, though, is that this Masters set is going in new directions, some of which I really don’t like. Allow me to explain why.

First of all, let’s get into the price disparity of this set. Masters sets (sets that are targeted reprints) have been more expensive since the days of Modern Masters 2011. Chronicles was the same price as other boosters at the time, but that was so long ago that it doesn’t really matter. Starting with MM11, Wizards knew they could charge more for these products, and in recent years, they have really turbocharged this concept.

Collector Boosters have done an excellent job at giving players a spectrum of choices for their cards/collecting. One end of the spectrum has the basic nonfoil of a card. The other end has the most premium version possible, from a Neon Red Hidetsugu to Serialized Elven Sol Rings. Players always had a choice before between foil and nonfoil, but only relatively recently have we gotten such a wide variety of choices.

There was quite an outcry when VIP Boosters came out in Double Masters, but Wizards made a whole new frame and art for the chase cards and there were guarantees about what you’d get, or at least have a crack at. Now, Commander Masters has its Collector Boosters for about the same price, and there’s much less outcry. We’re used to this now, and they know it.

For those of you who hate the idea of a single booster being around $75, no matter what’s in it: You’re outvoted. I hate to be the bearer of such bad news, but the only way Wizards stops making boosters like this at this price point is if people stop buying them. So far, I’m not seeing that happen, and while the card choices are sometimes mystifying for this set, they aren’t horrifically atrocious.

Still, these Collector Boosters are $75 a pack, compared to the $30-35 you would have spent on the Modern Horizons 2 Collector Boosters or Universes Beyond: Lord of the Rings Collector Booster. (I’m aware that single boosters at your LGS can cost more.)

Commander Masters is also uniquely huge in terms of the cards involved. I’ll have the full math up soon, when the entire set is previewed, but there’s 135 rares and 35 mythics here. Double Masters 2022 had 120 rares and 40 mythics, as a point of comparison. Even with the formulations of multiple rares per pack, this is still a whole lot of variance to deal with, and that’s part of the gambling experience. You know you might not hit it big, but when you do, the dopamine rush is so very wonderful.

I wasn’t expecting to get serialized cards every set, but it seems like an easy way to goose the value of the opened cards if you have some number of big hits in there. Even the crappiest of the BRO serialized are $100 or so, but leaving them out of this set feels like a miss. However, now that we’ve had this experience in multiple ways, we’re always going to feel a little let down when serialized cards aren’t a thing in a set. We’ll learn to cope with that feeling over time.

Those are the big-picture problems with Commander Masters. These don’t make the set a must-avoid, but they do indicate that Wizards is going to keep on pushing the limit of what they can get away with and still make amazing, if not record, profits.

On a more specific scale, Commander Masters has an amazing number of cards that were recently printed in some other way and are now getting hit again in rapid succession. It doesn’t bother me that cards get duplicate printings, especially when they have notably different art/frames, but what it signifies is that there is no person/department at Wizards who is responsible for managing what’s getting quick reprints.  

The Secret Lair – Commander Masters pipeline feels especially egregious this time around, as cards like Nekusar, the Mindrazer and Yisan, the Wanderer Bard were inclusions just a couple months ago. I don’t think this is a ‘new normal’ or anything, I just think it reflects what they are up to: adding cards based on current values and how they fit into a draft environment, not so much worrying about ‘did we just print that?’ 

We’ve also got some cards that were put into the Lord of the Rings and yet are also present here. The Great Henge got a Surge foil, other cards were in the Commander precons, and yet there’s more reprints coming. Toxic Deluge, Chromatic Lantern, Decree of Pain (and a SL here too!) and more got this one-two punch, helping prices likely stay low. 

I expect more of this going forward. Whoever’s in charge is overworked, or they aren’t coordinating, or last-minute changes…this is something we should not be shocked by in the future. I remember being shocked that Iona, Shield of Emeria was in Modern Masters 2015 and then immediately in FTV: Angels a month later. 

As you can imagine, being printed twice in a row with more premium versions means that all versions of a card will impede its growth going forward. Staples aren’t what they were, because Wizards has made so many cards that are just so good over the years. The Great Henge will recover, but with so many copies and with a selection of treatments, it’ll take longer than if just one set had had the card. 

I made the joke on Twitter that I couldn’t wait to buy cheap copies of The Party Tree version, and that’s still true, but now I’m going to wait longer to do so. I don’t want to move too early and I also don’t want to get caught if they print it a third time in four more months.

Finally, I want to encourage anyone who isn’t a member of our Discord to join up, because we’re pioneering and perfecting methods of making money off this game even as the underlying rules change from set to set. It’s a wild world out here, and we’re still helping you make and save money.

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.

Checking in on Phyrexia: All Will Be One

It’s been about five months since Phyrexia: All Will Be One came out, and that’s around the point at which I like to look at a set, checking for deals and thinking about what I want to stock up on in anticipation of future growth.

The timeframe for ONE is an impressive thing: It’ll be Standard legal until the fall of 2025. I’m not ready to spec on Standard cards only, but if a card is good there too, in additional to the casual and Eternal formats, then that’s a lovely bonus.

So let’s take a peek and make a list, shall we?

Some caveats before we get into the list: I’m using EDHREC data, which is the best indicator we have access to. The casual popularity of a card can also be reflected in a card’s price, but EDHREC stacks up only the information from the most connected players. For example, I’ve never uploaded a deck there, though I really ought to. It’s good data, but it’s a self-selected sample of data. 

Additionally, keep in mind that we live in an era of constant reprint risk. Secret Lairs, Commander decks, reprint sets…all of these add up to a certain amount of danger that spec purchases will get tagged again. There’s no evading this, but since this set is just a few months old, I’d be surprised if anything here was reprinted in 2023. Next year, though, I have different expectations. With Standard having a three-year period, I won’t be shocked if there’s a supplementary set of Standard reprints.

I also want to call attention to the collation of ONE. This is a set with a very high amount of variants. In addition to the original frame, we have showcase, manga, borderless, step-and-compleat foils, and oil slick foils. Plus the concept versions of the Praetors. And the Phyrexianized Planeswalkers. That’s a lot! Where possible, I’ll make it clear whether I think the best profit will be from the most premium versions or if I think you should brick up on the more basic versions.

Cankerbloom (Cheapest version at 17¢, most expensive $1, in 32,000 decks on EDHREC) – I’ve never really cared about making money off of uncommons or mythic rares, and Cankerbloom is going to make us some money. It’s been very rapidly adopted as a card that does a lot of good things, and gets around Elesh Norn/Torpor Orb. Those effects are remarkably effective at shutting down a lot of casual interactions, and creatures are pretty easy to recur in green decks. I think I’d prefer to have a stack of the step-and-compleat foils, rather than try to get a couple hundred of the regular nonfoil, but the big out of a buylist or two surely appeals more than the slow drip you’d get with selling the special foils to Commander players one at a time.

The Mycosynth Gardens ($2 to $10, 28k decks online) – Amulet Titan decks are in love with this card, as their whole deck is based around getting lands into play as fast as possible. Gardens can become an extra Amulet very easily, and that puts the deck into overdrive. The Commander demand is there, but what’s also great about this land is that it’s so wide-open a card. Every artifact that comes out makes this card better. Here, given the big gap between the basic versions and the FEA copies, I’d prefer to have a stack of the regulars. Having this go to $5 means you’ll buylist each one for a dollar or two more than you paid, and that scales nicely. The FEA copies will take longer to drain out.

Conduit of Worlds ($3 to $4.50, 29k decks) – I’ve played with this card and it’s exactly what you want in Commander. Fetchlands are glorious with it, and the long-term card advantage from the recursion is very real. The cost is low, the card is cheap, and there’s not too many FEA copies on TCGPlayer as to have me worried. The premium versions are definitely where I want to be for this card, as it’s Commander-centric and those are going to be the folks who make it happen.

Thrummingbird (10¢ to $1.25, 43k decks) – This is a reprint from Scars of Mirrodin, which is why the EDHREC number is notably higher than the other cards on this list. Proliferate decks are capable of being poison, superfriends, +1/+1 counters, you name it. The Bird is cheap and can almost always find someone to hit and get your proliferate on, and I want to have a stack of step-and-compleat foils ready for long-term gains. That’s the only fancy version, and should pay off in the end.

The Dominus Cycle (very wide range, 11k to 23k decks) – All of these cards are very good at what they do, doubling something you want doubled. Sometimes you want these as the Commander, sometimes in the 99, but there’s few decks that don’t enjoy these interactions. The Oil-Slick versions are the lowest-supply versions and have already felt that pressure, so if you wanted to go for a different version, that’s totally understandable. The SAC versions are sweet, but I think for these I’d prefer the growth potential of the regular frame now. They are surprisingly cheap for many of them, and I’d be expecting the regulars to go $10 to $20 before the super premium ones go $40 to $80.

All Will Be One ($11 to $30, 17k decks) – This is another card with very open-ended potential. Every card they make with any kind of counters makes this good. Did you know that you can cast this enchantment, play a Dark Depths, and smash any target for ten damage! Helix Pinnacle is now two kinds of win condition! There’s also some infinite combos as well in Commander, such as Quest for Pure Flame.

We have a complication here, though: This card has regular, foil, and then Oil-Slick Foil. No FEA, no Showcase. This makes the Oil-Slick a much more attractive target to me, and while it’s a higher buy-in at $30, this will have combo potential with every new card and should get new combo enablers pretty regularly.

Ichormoon Gauntlet ($3 to $18, 12k decks) – I mentioned Superfriends decks with the Thrummingbird but this is another regular or Oil-Slick card, and so you should grab what copies you can. Don’t sleep on the mini-proliferate ability either, as that can get way out of hand too.

Venerated Rotpriest ($2 to $6, 15k decks) – When it came out, this card was all over the place, making a combo deck possible in Standard and Pioneer, especially with tutor effects and copy effects. The premium versions are cheap, but I’m more in favor of the basic versions so that you can sell matching playsets easier when new combos appear.

Elesh Norn, Mother of Machines ($30 to $110, 35k decks as card and commander) – Hate her or adore here, MOM is a beast in Commander and has the price tag to match. There’s SO MANY versions of her, so you pick the one you like and get that. A reprint on this card is inevitable, though, so whatever you purchase should either be for personal use or you have a specific and quick turnaround planned for the card. 

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.