Modern Masters 2015 is one of the most highly anticipated supplemental sets in recent history. Two years after the wild success of the original Modern Masters, the sequel is going to be accompanied by three massive Grand Prix tournaments around the globe. The set is chock full of amazing cards but does it live up to they hype? More importantly, will the recycled cardboard-clad packs live up to their $10 price tag?

Modern Gambling

Any time you buy a pack of Magic cards you are taking a financial risk. Now, obviously you’re getting a lot of enjoyment out of opening a pack of cards. We all love it. The smell. The feel. The taste. Oh right, don’t eat the cards. But, looking at things purely from a financial point of view (at which point Matt Jones stopped reading this article) you are taking on risk by opening a pack of cards. If you follow blogs like Quiet Speculation and MTG Price then you’re familiar with the concept of Expected Value (EV). In short, this is the average amount of money you can expect to open in a fresh pack of Magic cards. Basically, if the EV of your pack of Dragons of Tarkir is below the retail price ($3.99) then you’re taking on a larger risk. For most sets the risk is relatively small because, at most, you can only lose $3.99. However, with Modern Masters things get a bit trickier because $9.99 is more than twice the usual cost of a pack of cards. Even if the EV is twice as high, EV is only an average number, and you are taking on much more risk.

So is the risk worth it?

The Mythics

By Thursday of last week all 15 mythic rares had been revealed. The odds of getting one of these cards is one in every eight packs. That means you need to spend, on average, $80 opening packs to pull a single one of these cards. Of course, you’ll have seven rares and 24 uncommons to recoup some of your cost. Let’s see how good those rares and uncommons will need to be by looking at the approximate TCG Mid value of the 15 mythic rares.

  • Bitterblossom – $45
  • Comet Storm – $1
  • Dark Confidant – $65
  • Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite – $30
  • Emrakul, the Aeons Torn – $40
  • Iona, Shield of Emeria – $30
  • Karn Liberated – $45
  • Kiki-Jiki, Mirror Breaker – $25
  • Kozilek, Butcher of Truth – $50
  • Mox Opal – $45
  • Primeval Titan – $15
  • Tarmogoyf – $190
  • Tezzeret, the Seeker – $15
  • Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre – $35
  • Vendilion Clique – $65

Those numbers are kind of all over the place. The average is $46.40 but the standard deviation is another $43.53 which really drives home the disparity in value here. Nine of these cards actually fall between $25 and $50 with an average of $38.33 and a deviation of only $8.66. That gives you a range of $30-$45 which would mean the one mythic you open in eight packs would reliably cover about half your cost. Where things start to spiral out of control is with Tarmogoyf and Comet Storm. If you look at the other 13 mythics you get an average of $38.84 and a deviation of $16.09. It’s more risky, but you’re still going to cover between 25% and 75% of your investment on the mythic. Throw in the last two mythics and things go crazy.

So what’s the verdict? Look at the 13 reasonable mythics. You’re likely to pull a mythic worth somewhere in the ballpark of $40 but it could be as low as $20 and as high as $60. But, there’s a one in 15 chance that you get nothing and an equal chance you hit the jackpot and get Tarmogoyf. Of course, the more packs you buy the smoother your curve. If you open a whole box and get three Comet Storms, well, maybe you should stop opening packs of cards.

The Rares

If you’re averaging $40 in your one mythic, then in order to have an even break in risk the rest of your cards need to come up to the rest of the $80 you spent on your packs. Now, let’s take a look at the… oh… wow… I see. Alright, you know at this point maybe we should start thinking about other things at Grand Prix Vegas we can spend our $80 on because, well, these rares are going to fall a bit short of the mark.

The average value of a rare in MM2 is $7.65. That’s actually not too bad at first glance. If you buy eight packs, the seven rares you pull should net you around $53.55, which added to the $38.84 mythic average, should recover your $80, but not by much. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves here. Just like the mythics had a few outliers, the rare average is also being wildly skewed. In fact, despite the $7.65 average, the rares have a standard deviation north of $12. What gives? The big problems are Cryptic Command and Noble Hierarch, both of which sit at $50+. The next most valuable rare is a massive drop-off to $28 for Daybreak Coronet and Wilt-Leaf Liege. Only eight rares come in over $20.

If you look at the 45 rares that are worth less than $20 things are much sharper with an average value of $3.17 and a deviation of $4.12. If we narrow it down to the 40 rares that are under $10 then we have an average value of $1.95 and a deviation of $1.88. Now we’re getting somewhere.

With the mythics you had a core group of 13 cards (85%) that accounted for an average of $38.84 and deviation of $16.0. With the rares you have a core group of 40 cards (75%) that account for an average of $1.95 and a deviation of $1.88. Having excluded the extremes from our rudimentary analysis you can see that the rare/mythic slot in your eight packs of Modern Masters 2015 is going to come back with about $52.49, give or take about $20.

What we’re seeing here is a lot of risk. All of the value in the packs is in the outliers. When we leave these massive spikes in the analysis you get an average value that’s well over MSRP. However, when we remove cards like Tarmogoyf, Noble Hierarch, and Leyline of Sanctity, you get a clearer picture of what you can expect over a larger sample size. What you get is a value well below the MSRP of $9.99/pack, which is a massive risk to be taking.

The Rest

Whelp, we’ve established that the most valuable card in the pack only has an average value of $6.56 with a deviation of $3.66. That means we’re about $3.43 short of making up the rest of our MSRP, and the deviation means we could actually be anywhere from $7 short to $0.23 over. There are still 14 more cards in the pack which includes 3 uncommons, 10 commons, and 1 premium card. Will they add up to the difference? The short answer is no, unless you open Remand.

Just like with the rares and mythics, the uncommons are littered with extreme outliers that throw off the pack value. Cards like Remand, Lightning Bolt, and Electrolyze will do little to change the fact that the uncommons are all worth well under a dollar, and the bulk of the commons are in the exact same boat. The only potentially consistent value here is going to be in the foil card taking up the last slot in the pack. However, if we’ve learned anything, it’s that the theme of Modern Masters is extreme variance and the premium card is the epitome of that variance.

Is it Worth it?

Ultimately, the EV of a pack of Modern Masters 2015 as a percentage of its MSRP is pretty high. It’s certainly higher than a pack of Dragons of Tarkir. However, it’s important to understand exactly what you’re getting yourself into. While the averages fall into a very nice middle band that’s hovering at just under 75% of MSRP the variance is massive. You could end up with anywhere from $1.00 worth of cards to north of $200 and that’s not even considering the possibility of opening a foil Tarmogoyf. So while the rewards are great the risks are also great. Make no mistake, this will not be like opening packs of the original Modern Masters but thanks to the incredibly high EV the secondary market for sealed product is sure to soar.

The Quick Hits

  • Jon Finkel previewed the reprint of Shadowmage Infiltrator, the card he originally designed when he won the Invitational a million years ago [Daily MTG]
  • Mike Linnemann and Keith Adams are working to put together a cube of original Alpha edition playtest cards [Gathering Magic]
  • The next Duel Decks set will feature the allied forces of Zendikar against the monstrous Eldrazi and one can only assume that this confirms the Eldrazi are still hanging around Zendikar and oh, right, we’ll be back on Zendikar this Fall. It’s almost like they planned it this way… [Magic Arcana]
  • Tickets for PAX Prime went on sale this week and then they were gone in sixty minutes. For those of you who missed out on getting a badge, here’s Wizards announcing how awesome everything at PAX will be for Magic and rubbing salt in your wounds [Daily MTG]
  • Last but not least, Channel Fireball has unveiled their Prize Wall for GP Las Vegas where you can get a pack of Arabian Nights for 4,000 points, the equivalent of 400 packs of Dragons of Tarkir, the equivalent of $1,596 MSRP. Considering packs regularly sell on eBay for $400~$500 you might want to start your own prize wall of insanely inflated prices [Channel Fireball]

Wallpaper of the Week

That staff is totally a selfie stick.

Grade: D

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. Each week we will take a look at the past seven days of major events, big news items, and community happenings so that you can keep up-to-date on all the latest and greatest Magic: the Gathering community news.

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