Checking Back In On New Commanders

I’ve made a conscious effort in the last two years to put my speculative purchases on a timeline. With the frequency of reprints, it’s pretty rare for me to say ‘this is a staple, I want to buy it while it’s cheap’ because repeated reprints are an occupational hazard now.

Instead, I want to refine my buying and focus on ‘I think this card is going to be a popular deck, and what cards go with that?’ sorts of purchases, or at least recommendations. I’ve got some recent examples to point to, and so let’s bring up some older work and see if I was right.

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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 Mana Math of Universes Beyond: Fallout

Every set, we’re given a breakdown of how likely you are to open the cards you want. Sometimes we get detailed percentages, sometimes we get generalized information. Either way, I’m happy to break down the numbers and tell you how likely you are to get the card you want. 

Fallout occupies an interesting space, in that there’s four Commander decks filled with sweet cards and interactions, and then Collector Boosters default to having lots of shiny, premium cards. There’s nothing in between, and as such, each slot in the Collector Booster has its own appeal.

First off, here’s the list for reprints in the regular frame in this set. When some slots talk about ‘new to Magic’ they don’t mean these cards. 

Uncommon reprints (57)Rare Reprints (82)Mythic Reprints (1)
Arcane Signet
Bastion of Remembrance
Behemoth Sledge
Brass Knuckles
Buried Ruin
Contagion Clasp
Corpsejack Menace
Crush Contraband
Everflowing Chalice
General’s Enforcer
Glimmer of Genius
Heroic Reinforcements
Inspiring Call
Intangible Virtue
Jungle Shrine
Lightning Greaves
Loyal Apprentice
Memorial to Glory
Mind Stone
Morbid Opportunist
Myriad Landscape
Mystic Monastery
Nomad Outpost
Opulent Palace
Path to Exile
Pitiless Plunderer
Roadside Reliquary
Rogue’s Passage
Sol Ring
Squirrel Nest
Swiftfoot Boots
Swords to Plowshares
Tainted Field
Tainted Isle
Tainted Peak
Tainted Wood
Talisman of Conviction
Talisman of Creativity
Talisman of Curiosity
Talisman of Dominance
Talisman of Hierarchy
Talisman of Indulgence
Talisman of Progress
Talisman of Resilience
Temple of the False God
Thirst for Knowledge
Valorous Stance
Wear // Tear
Whirler Rogue
Winding Constrictor
Anguished Unmaking
Assemble the Legion
Austere Command
Basilisk Collar
Biomass Mutation
Black Market
Blasphemous Act
Bloodforged Battle-Axe
Branching Evolution
Canopy Vista
Canyon Slough
Captain of the Watch
Casualties of War
Champion’s Helm
Chaos Warp
Cinder Glade
Clifftop Retreat
Darkwater Catacombs
Dragonskull Summit
Drowned Catacomb
Entrapment Maneuver
Exotic Orchard
Fervent Charge
Fetid Pools
Find // Finality
Fraying Sanity
Glacial Fortress
Guardian Project
Hardened Scales
Heroic Intervention
Hinterland Harbor
Hour of Reckoning
Inexorable Tide
Irrigated Farmland
Isolated Chapel
Keeper of the Accord
Lethal Scheme
Mantle of the Ancients
Marshal’s Anthem
Martial Coup
Masterwork of Ingenuity
Mossfire Valley
Mystic Forge
Nesting Grounds
One with the Machine
Open the Vaults
Prairie Stream
Puresteel Paladin
Rootbound Crag
Ruinous Ultimatum
Scattered Groves
Scavenger Grounds
Secure the Wastes
Shadowblood Ridge
Sheltered Thicket
Single Combat
Skycloud Expanse
Smoldering Marsh
Solemn Simulacrum
Spire of Industry
Steel Overseer
Stolen Strategy
Sulfur Falls
Sungrass Prairie
Sunken Hollow
Sunpetal Grove
Temple of Abandon
Temple of Deceit
Temple of Enlightenment
Temple of Epiphany
Temple of Malady
Temple of Malice
Temple of Mystery
Temple of Plenty
Temple of Silence
Temple of Triumph
Tireless Tracker
Treasure Vault
Wake the Past
Windbrisk Heights
Woodland Cemetery
Mechanized Production

In the Collector Booster, the first slot is basic lands, with a 33% chance of that land being Surge Foil. After that, we start getting interesting. It’ll be any nonland from the deck, and each deck has a slightly different number of non-basic-lands to choose from. 

Each deck has the following number of cards that aren’t basic lands: 

Scrappy Survivors – 88 cards

Hail, Caesar! – 86 cards

Mutant Menace – 85 cards

Science! – 87 cards

This arrangement of slots calls for its own table:

# of CBs needed for a specific card in Traditional Foil# of CBs needed for a specific card in Surge Foil
Any card3463460
Hail, Caesar86860
Scrappy Survivors88880
Mutant Menace85850

On average, you’ve got about a one in 86.5 chance for a Traditional Foil, and 865 for a Surge Foil regular frame from the four slots. The slot before that could be from any deck, which boosts your overall odds per pack. One more slot is going to increase our Surge Foil Regular Frame options overall, and I’ll get to that in a moment.

After the Surge Foils, we’ve got some Extended Art options:

Options in the slot# of cards (and therefore how many packs to get a specific card)
1 Non-foil extended-art new-to-Magic card85
1 Non-foil extended-art reprint Magic card82
1 Traditional foil extended-art new-to-Magic card85
1 Traditional foil extended-art reprint Magic card82
1 Surge foil extended-art new-to-Magic card85
1 Surge foil extended-art reprint Magic card82

The Extended Art cards are not going to be super-difficult pulls, needing about seven boxes to get one specific card in the treatment you want. Dividing it up this way helps.

After that, we get a Surge Foil wildcard spot, which is regular frame or Extended Art. From the earlier slots, we know that there’s 346 regular frame cards plus 167 EA options. Adding it all up, we get the following numbers:

Regular Frame Surge Foils:
1/3460 plus 1/865 plus 1/513 gives us a roughly 1 in 294.6 chance of getting a certain card in Regular Frame Surge Foil per pack. 
Extended Art Surge Foils:
1/167 plus 1/513 gives us roughly 126 packs to get the specific Extended Art Surge Foil we want.

The next-to-last card in the slot is for nonfoil special frames, and there’s 35 potential drops, all appearing equally even if they are labeled as uncommons, rares, and mythics.

Finally, the last slot. Foil Showcase, Pip-Boy, and serialized all mixed together. Traditional foil is 90% of the pulls here, and a 10% chance of the card being Surge Foil. Any regular foil is about 1/39, and that makes the Surge Foils about 1/390.

The Amazon product page tells us that serialized is less than 1% of boosters, and that’s a percentage we can break down. 

Our estimate is that there’s about a 0.8% chance per booster, but it could flex either way. It’s unlikely to be as rare as 0.5%, but even if that’s the max, we know that there’s less Fallout out there than the last two Universes Beyond sets that had Collector Boosters. Between the two LOTR editions, there was about 400,000 CB boxes, there was at max 100,000 of those for Dr. Who, and now we’re at maybe 60,000. This stuff is going to be hard to find!

Early indicators back this up, too, with CB boxes preselling on TCGplayer and other sites above $400. Interestingly, the serialized cards are about two to four times rarer than Surge Foil Showcase/Vault-Boy cards, depending on which estimate you use. Imagine if the Surge Foils came with a xxxx/1500 on them, and you get an idea of the rarity involved.

Let’s make a table to summarize example rarities.

Type of Frame and Foil (all rarities)Percent chance for any card of that categoryPercent chance for a specific card of that category# of CBs to open one specific card from that category
Traditional Foil Regular Frame guaranteed1.4%69.2
Surge Foil Regular Frame guaranteed0.34%294.6
Extended-Art nonfoilguaranteed0.6%167
Extended-Art Regular Foilguaranteed0.6%167
Extended-Art Surge Foilguaranteed0.8%126
Nonfoil Showcase or Vault Boyguaranteed2.85%35
Traditional Foil Showcase or Vault Boy90%2.57%39
Surge Foil Showcase or Vault Boy10%0.257%390

Looking at this table, it’s pretty impressive how they manipulate the slots and additional chances at the same card to move your overall chances, and the total amount of premium cards printed. Extended-Art Surge Foils will be the most common premium drop, and ought to carry a lower price than the surprisingly difficult pull for the Regular Frame Surge Foils.

The other number that jumps out at me is the non-Surge numbers for the Showcase and Vault Boy options, both the nonfoils and the Traditional Foils. Right now, those cards appear to be super overpriced, and hopefully those prices drop once release weekend hits. 

There’s some psychology at play here. Will the market really let the Regular Frame Surge Foil version of Nuka-Cola Vending Machine be more than twice the price of the EA version, as these drop rates suggest? We will have to see. 

I hope these numbers help inform your buying decisions, both for the overall rarity of Fallout CBs and for individual cards. As always, if you have questions about the methods or results, please feel free to reach out in the ProTrader Discord, in the comments, or on Twitter. 

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.

Planning Potential Purchases of Pro Tour Previews

There was a lot of information  dumped on us this week, and some of it is more immediate than others, but my first thought was ‘no Commander decks for Assassin’s Creed? People have to build a deck from scratch?!’ and that means loads of things worth considering adding to your spec boxes.

My second thought has to do with the Eldrazi that were revealed, the packaging of the Commander deck, and where those tentacled monsters are going to be going.

So let’s dive in, and figure out what to buy and what not to buy.

First off, let’s take a moment and appreciate this card:

Freerunning is sublime poetry of a keyword. Accurate to the game, the mechanic, and just plain perfect. It’s also telling you exactly what to do with the card, if it’s your Commander, and that’s cram your deck full of Assassins that you can play for cheap. It’s a cheap Commander, too, and with that second ability, now the whole rainbow of Assassins are available to you. 

We’ve already seen a few previewed Assassins, and likely there’s more coming. We’re also getting a few targeted reprints, but those haven’t been anything directly related to the card type. The lack of Commander decks means it’s open season for Assassins and accessories, though there’s also Secret Lairs and other reprint avenues that might tag one or two of these.

Whenever I see an ability that lets me cheat on mana costs, I go forth and sort by mana value. Sure enough, I find some sweet Assassins in the six and seven mana range who I’d dearly love to have in play a few turns early.

First of all, a Zombie Assassin whom I used to have at the helm of my Zombie deck, but the white pips of Varina, Lich Queen seduced me away: it’s Thraximundar!

This version is from one of the earliest Secret Lair drops, and notably is only available in nonfoil. You’ve got other versions to chase, all of which are super cheap, but this one being the only unique frame around, I think that these are the target. Copies are gone under $5, but there’s plenty available in that range for now, and more will not be coming. Seems safe to hit $10 retail, maybe even higher. I wish I could play this in my first main phase, to get use out of the haste, but we can’t have everything.  

Next up, a newcomer who’s already made a Pro Tour splash: Vein Ripper

We just saw this deck take care of business at the Pro Tour, putting the Ripper into play on turn three via Sorin, and you can replicate that feat in Commander if you have a one-drop Changeling Assassin into Ezio and then you’ve got this bad boy in play turn three. It’s notable that ACR comes out in July, so there will be time for Vein Ripper to settle down a little, but having played this in Commander a couple of times already, I feel like the price will never really be low. 

Finally, in terms of saving mana, let me introduce you to a card with several wonderful features. 

Destroy their thing, get a copy of it, at instant speed? Heck yes. Even better, this is a Surge Foil target, a subset of cards that have gotten targeted buyouts from time to time, and many of the new price points have held up. Currently around $3 for the Surge Foil, this feels like a marvelous time to get in before the inevitable double-up.

Assassins for cheap aren’t the only thing we need. We also need ways to kill, and there are some excellent cards that can do exactly that. 

Garza’s Assassin – The foils are either too messed up to be good specs or just nonexistent, as Coldsnap remains one of the strangers publishing decisions in Wizards’ storied history of head-scratchers. The set vastly overestimated the market, was far too parasitic, and featured an endlessly grindable mechanic in Recover. The Assassin is a good card, though with a steep mana cost. It’s also got a strong chance of being in a Secret Lair, but taking a flier on some nonfoils will probably pay off nicely. You’re looking at around two dollars shipped on TCG, but in multiples you might be able to get that cost lower.

Kiku, Night’s Flower – Since Ezio was previewed, there’s been a lot of copies bought up on TCGPlayer but not enough to make me worried. This card was printed twenty years ago, and there’s only a handful of foils available. The NM ones are at $30, but I suspect that with heavy Assassin support, that will jump up pretty high. Nonfoils are currently near $6 for nonfoils after folks bought up the cheaper and often LP/MP versions, but if this dodges the reprint, it’ll really take off.

Unliving Psychopath – Foils from Dissension are pretty rare. In the before-times, when three-set blocks ruled, the third set was smaller but opened far less packs. (If you’re interested, I broke down the math in an article ten years ago.) We haven’t gotten any additional printings of the card, and the foils around $2 seem like a lock to jump higher when everyone starts buying all the cards with Assassin in the type line.

We were also given a preview of Eldrazi shenanigans, including this: 

Modern Horizons 3 Commander Deck - Eldrazi Incursion-0

I’m not one to judge a book by its cover, especially when it comes to eldritch horrors, but that’s not Zhulodok on the cover. Clearly, we’re about to get some actual five-color Eldrazi foolishness, and that’s exciting. 

MH3 is going to have these decks, with a mix of reprints and new cards, plus the stuff in the main set and whatever other zany additions R&D can think up for us. It seems clear that the new Eldrazi deck will have a commander who rivals Zhulodok, in much the way that Pantlaza matched the greatness of Zacama. And this one will allow for five-color Eldrazi, since Devoid doesn’t define color identity. 

This will be the first time we get to re-use the colored Eldrazi, and as such, I like most of them as a spec, but there’s a pretty big catch.

Every Commander deck in MH3 will have a ‘Collector’s Edition’ version, all foil. So anything we spec on that gets a reprint might take a big tumble indeed. I think the safest best are the cards related to Eldrazi Spawn and Eldrazi Scions, but I don’t have any inside information. Those have a wide range of prices, but if a five-color Eldrazi Commander is previewed and the deck doesn’t have those cards, I fully expect them to take off into the stratosphere.

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.

A Brief History of Serialized Cards

While Fallout previews are going on in full force, I can’t help but be underwhelmed by the choice to make the bobbleheads the serialized cards for this set. We’ve got a wide range of legends to choose from in here, and I think this was a miss.

I got to thinking about what the prices on the serialized bobbleheads will get to, and then I realized that we need to examine the history of these cards and see where prices might go. There’s SO MANY factors at play when it comes to these cards, so let’s open up the vault and take a look.

The first serialized cards were the Retro Frame artifacts in The Brothers’ War, a subset abbreviated BRR. There were 500 of each of these, and the playability for these cards resulted in a very wide range of prices, a theme which we’ll see more of. The serialized cards had the same art as the Retro Schematic frame, just with a new foiling method called the Double Rainbow. None of the cards were completely unplayable, but there’s a heck of a gulf between the decks that will run a Bone Saw vs. how many run a Chromatic Lantern.

As a result, the early prices were absolutely wild. Collectors (and these are definitely collector items, not player pieces) were caught up in a frenzy, with several going for more than a thousand dollars. Weirdly, even though they were all equally rare, the ones marked as mythic tended to be sold for more money than the ones marked as rare. That trend has flattened out, thankfully.

The next set of serialized cards came from March of the Machine, where we are given the five flip Praetors, also in a set of 500, but most importantly, the serialized cards have new, original, exclusive art. These five cards are still quite expensive, and it’s not due to playability. It would appear that the combination of iconic characters, flipping into powerful Sagas, and one-of-a-kind art has allowed these prices to stay in the four figures.

This is notable, because as we’re going to see, comparatively speaking, the Praetors should be cheaper than they are. 

March of the Machine also gave us the Multiverse Legends sheet, which contained xxx/500 versions of assorted legendary creatures in a frame that reflected their home plane. One of the quirks of printing and packaging meant that it was possible to open a Collector Booster that had a serialized Praetor and also had a serialized MUL card. Infinitesimal odds, but still possible.

The MUL cards have a wide range of prices, but consistently lower than the Praetors from the same set. 

Ragavan is the most highly-played creature from the set in both Commander and Constructed, and those serialized cards are available for around half the price of Jin-Gitaxias. Ragavan is in four times as many Commander decks as Jin-Gitaxias is, they are even in the same Collector Boosters, and have the same number of serialized versions.

I have to think it’s the art, the feeling that those 500 copies of Jin-Gitaxias are truly unique, whereas there are thousands of copies of Ragavan out there that look the same as a serialized version only without the xxx/500 printed on there. If you’ve got other interpretations, please, let me know in the comments or in Discord.

The other legends from this subset also have a wide range of prices. Many of these have come down to under $200, though relatively few are close to the $100 price. The best predictor is EDH use, especially since these are all legendary and likely to be Commanders for decks. Why not splurge on a serialized for the lead singer of your deck?

After this, though, came the greatest triumph: Universes Beyond: Lord of the Rings and the four different serialized cards. Wizards pulled this off perfectly, giving us 900, 700, and 300 serialized versions of the same card (again with different art, and with the non-serialized, nonfoils still a difficult pull) they gave us the first 1 of 1 card in Magic’s history, opened by a player in Canada and famously sold to Post Malone for $2 million.

Sol Ring has more premium treatments than any other card, has been reprinted more than any non-basic land, and has three accessible serialized versions. If you’re willing to shell out more for a Sol Ring than for a Mox, the Elf ring is for you. This entire endeavor was well-planned and carried out well, resulting in LTR being one of the best-selling sets in Magic’s history.

They weren’t done, either: they told us that reprints were coming in a Holiday edition and those reprints included serialized psychedelic poster versions of cards and serialized versions of the Realms and Relics. These, however, were limited to just 100 of each, and that combined with the power of these cards has made them pricey indeed.

I like what they tried in the WHO expansion from Universes Beyond, where The First Doctor is xxx/501 and The Thirteenth Doctor is xxx/513, but the demand for those cards as Commanders hasn’t materialized. I thought there might have been enough whales/collectors who wanted a complete set, but the pricing doesn’t back that up.

The next entry in the Serialized saga is from Ravnica Remastered, where all 64 serialized cards are reprints, in the retro frame, with known art. In other words, the most basic version possible. As a 25-year-veteran of Magic, I like the retro frame, but I want something special and unique! Unsurprisingly, the shocklands are near the top of this list, with none being under $100 and very few being over $300. That price range, dependent on the number of decks demanding the card, seems to be the default setting for serialized cards that share art/frame with another card in the set. 

Most recently, we got xxx/250 for seven guild leaders in MKM, but none of their prices are outstanding. All the cards are solid, playable, potentially cornerstones but even a lowered rarity wasn’t enough to keep the price high.

Fallout went for serialized Bobbleheads, and there won’t need to be a lot of collectors who need the entire SPECIAL set of seven for these prices to be higher than expected. The cards themselves are underwhelming for what they are and what they represent, so I’m expecting them to average nearly $200 apiece as well.

Today we were told of the Assassin’s Creed set, which will feature serialized versions of historical figures. Most importantly, these cards will have new art, a borderless frame, and be printed in a non-English language.

I don’t have details for this yet but I expect these to command hefty premiums. This one, with a half-done Mona Lisa especially but the AC series takes us to a lot of figures and a lot of landmarks/historical artifacts. We’re going to see some awesome choices and these serialized cards will be notably more expensive. I’m hoping the preorders are lower priced for these cards but since most big vendors won’t do a preorder, I might have to settle for jumping on the first couple of listed copies.

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.