Modern Masters will be released to the public this Friday and is slated to have more value in it than any set of cards has ever had before. This is likely true, given the density of high-value cards. Most sets will have one or two Mythics and maybe a half-dozen rares that have financial value. Modern Masters, on the other hand, is loaded with such cards. Of the 15 Mythics in the set, StarCity Games currently sells 10 of them for $20 or more. The other five are Vedalken Shackles ($15) and the four non-Kokusho dragons from Champions of Kamigawa ($3 – $10). If you compare this to Dragon’s Maze, the difference is staggering. Even with the $50 price tag on Voice of Resurgence, the Mythic Rares of Dragon’s Maze have an average value of just under $11.

In exchange for the added value however, the MSRP on Modern Masters is double that of a normal expansion set. More importantly though, the current price of a box of Modern Masters through the secondary market has the MSRP sitting around 300% of a normal box of Magic cards. The price of a box pre-sold through eBay has risen from $235 around the time Dark Confidant was spoiled to about $260 around the middle of last week. The eBay is bounded by the $290 price tag that Channel Fireball has set on their boxes and the $300 price tag over at StarCity Games which are also astonishing. To put that in perspective, you can pre-order three boxes of Magic 2014 for the same price as one box of Modern Masters over at StarCity Games.

So the question for the average Magic player this week has been, “is it really worth it?” The short answer is, if you can get packs of Modern Masters for their MSRP price, then yes, it is absolutely worth it. However, at this point finding packs at MSRP is going to be a challenge. What then would be a fair price for a pack of this value-laden set of cards? In order to figure that out you need to calculate the Expected Value (EV) of a pack. This isn’t an easy thing to do, but for Modern Masters we have a bit of an advantage. Every card in the set already has a stable secondary market price that can be used. The only speculation is on where those prices will move to once the set releases, but, I’ll talk about that later.

A pack of Modern Masters has 15 cards in it. One of those cards will be a shiny foil. This is important, but also the most complex piece of the puzzle, so we’re not going to get into it. These foils will fluctuate in value wildly, but they will almost all have a decent return. Moving on in the pack you’ll find yourself with ten commons and three uncommons. These cards also have a huge range of values. The commons will mostly be of the 25 cent variety, but some of them will be worth complete pieces of green cotton printed by the United States Treasury. Cards like Rift Bolt and Lava Spike are going to drop in price due to the influx of new cards, but not significantly. The uncommons will also vary greatly, but expect them to come in with some value as well, especially with cards like Path to Exile and Kitchen Finks scattered about.

Now it’s time for some math, so read carefully if that isn’t your thing, or just scroll down a bit if you couldn’t care less. The rares and mythics make up the final slot in the pack. There are 15 mythics in the set and 53 rares. This means that on the 121 card rare sheet there will be 15 mythics and 106 rares. So when you open a pack, there is a 15/121 chance that you open a mythic rare, roughly 1-in-8 packs. In order to figure out what that one spot in the pack is worth, you need to know the average value of all 68 cards that could possibly be in that spot. Once you do that, you can take 1/8th of the average value of the mythics and add it to 7/8th of the average value of the rares. This will give you the average value of that slot in the pack. You can do the same for the commons and uncommons, multiplying the average common value by 10 and the average uncommon value by 3. However, that isn’t always as useful and I’ll explain why below. For now, let’s focus on rares and mythics.

In order to get a decent value for these cards, we’re going to head over to TCGPlayer and look at the mid-price. This price is commonly used in trading, and often sits between what you can sell a card for and what it would cost you to buy it. The 15 mythics have a large range in price, starting at $1.50 for Ryusei, the Falling Star and going all the way to $115 for Tarmogoyf. Averaging out all the cards gives you a value of $28. Given the fact that only one in every eight packs will yield a mythic, we can add $3.50 to the EV of our pack of Modern Masters. The rares are a little more consistent in price, though some of them are pretty worthless (I’m looking at you, Reach of Branches). The average value across all 53 rares is $8.50. Taking 7/8th of that value gives us $7.44, which added to the Mythic value gives us $11.

That is a significant number. For a pack of cards with an MSRP of $6.99, the EV of the rare slot alone is $11, a profit of $4. Add in a couple dollars for Uncommons, a dollar for Commons and a dollar for the foil slot (exceptionally low estimate mind you) and you’re looking at a rough EV of $15 per pack. Now, does this mean you should go out an buy every box of Modern Masters that StarCity has left (17 boxes at the time of writing this)? No, not really. This is because we looked at the TCGPlayer mid-value. Unlike MTGO, where you can really only move cards around for tickets, you can do a lot of things with paper magic cards. You can trade them with your friends. You can sell them to a retailer for credit or cash. You can even sell them yourself on a secondary market like eBay. However, all of these things have different values. Therefore, what you intend to do with the cards actually changes the EV of the sealed pack.

My final point on the topic today is a very important one, and that’s on the expected change in this value. I feel confident that with the short printing of the set, the value of mythics and rares is not going to be affected all that much. There will be a lot of new Cryptic Commands in the market, but that shouldn’t change their value too much. Where we may see drops in price is going to be in the uncommons and commons. Today, you can sell Kitchen Finks to StarCity for $4 ea. There should be a sufficient amount of these in Modern Masters to bring that price down somewhat. Personally, I would expect most of the valuable commons and uncommons to drop to about 50% of their current value due to the sudden influx of new cards. However, they should slowly climb back up to about 75% of their current value, possibly all the way back up to what they’re worth today.

Hopefully you have a little more clarity now when deciding whether or not to open up all those Modern Masters prize packs you’ll be winning in Las Vegas in a couple weeks.

The Quick Hits

  • Mark Rosewater’s history of tokens was as pleasant a way to start the week as I can think of. [Making Magic]
  • Much like my own column last week, commentary on the Legend rule changes was rampant. [Gathering Magic]
  • Brian DeMars talked about cards affected by the rule changes and I’m really excited for people controlling each other’s Olivia Voldaren. [StarCity Games]
  • Surprise! The black card advantage enchantment is the winner of You Make the Card 4! Who saw that coming? [YMTC4]
  • Jason Alt waded into the MTG Finance subreddit to bring us some Modern Masters info. [Quiet Speculation]
  • Modern Masters will be available on MTGO but won’t be redeemable. This is a huge point for how little will be printed. [MTGO]
  • Mike Linneman speculates on some future Magic careers that don’t exist today. I’ve already started business plans for three of them (not kidding). [Gathering Magic]
  • Is Gerard Fabriano King of the Nerds? He’s a little too cool for school if you ask me. [Gatheirng Magic]
  • Sheldon Menery breaks down the Legendary rule impact to Commander. [StarCity Games]
  • Based on this primer for new players I would not want to be a new Magic player, it sounds like a warzone. [StarCity Games]
  • Yet another review of the rules changes, this time from Caleb Durward. [Legacy Weapon]
  • Psychology Doctorate student Natasha Lewis Harrington talks about creation and discovery in deck construction. [Gathering Magic]
  • Check out James Arnold’s infographic for Pro Tour Dragon’s Maze. [Gathering Magic]
  • James Arnold apparently had a lot of time on his hands lately and made more wallpapers too. [Gathering Magic]
  • A new platform for online trading of physical Magic cards. Neat. [PucaTrade]
  • Seriously, I guess everyone turned the rules change into a Barney Stinson joke. [StarCity Games]
  • The Vintage Championships will be in Philly. Will I return to Magic to participate? Stay tuned. [DailyMTG]

Wallpaper of the Week

News alert: The new art on City of Brass is gorgeous.

Grade: A

The Week Ahead

Modern Masters and GP Providence. It’s gonna be an exciting week for the Magic community.

Hello reader! What We Learned is a weekly feature here at Hipsters of the Coast written by former amateur Magic Player Rich Stein, who came really close to making day two of a Grand Prix on several occasions. The goal is to take some of the events and articles polluting the Magic world, strip out the chaff (tournament reports, game theory, economics) and give you our superior opinion. Complaints are encouraged.

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