You’ve Got Gold: How Wizards Crashed Gold Futures in Magic

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by Robby Rothe of MTG Color Pie
On June 2, 2008, Mark Rosewater descended from on top of Mount Wizards with a stone tablet in each hand and decreed the following: There was to be another rarity in Magic and this rarity was going to be "Mythic Rare". Ever since then, there’ve been questions if it was even a good idea in the first place.  It’s been almost two years since this announcement, with two full blocks as well as a Core Set, and every set in Standard has mythic rares. Looking back at past data and with some of the hype dying down, we can actually take a look at one of the principals that Wizards set out to accomplish with this setting. To quote:

“We've also decided that there are certain things we specifically do not want to be mythic rares. The largest category is utility cards, what I'll define as cards that fill a universal function. Some examples of this category would be cycles of dual lands and cards like Mutavault or Char. That also addresses a long-standing issue that some players have had with certain rares like dual lands. Because we're making fewer cards per set, in the new world individual rares will be easier to acquire because each rare in a large set now appears 25% more often.” 

Let’s ignore the whole “mythics as staples” issue for this post and focus on something else. One of the whole ideas for creating this new rarity would be that rare cards would be cheaper and easier to acquire. Sure, there would be some adjustment in price for the mythics but with the math, regular rares were going to be cheaper. If you bundle this with the fact that Wizards decided to make smaller sets, after the largest Standard card pool ever, was it really possible to have cheaper rares? That’s the whole thing I want to tackle here.  Three asides: 

  • Supply + Demand = Price, roughly. Anytime people talk about prices going up or down, usually that means that demand is rising or falling. Price can also be high if there is short supply and demand is high. Jace 2.0 is $60 because it’s Mythic (shorter print run) and people want it. More explanation here.
  • Card quality affects price. If there was a set of a badly designed cards,then most likely the cards aren’t in high demand. See aside 1. Most of the time, the sets are pretty well designed and pretty evenly designed between sets - no one set is massively better than the last. Save for a few “chase” cards, most of the time the cards prices are about the same.
  • For all prices, I’m using NM/M raitings on from April 28th. With one consistent place, it’s easy to contrast and compare.

Ben Bleiweiss talked about how the mythic rarity will affect card prices right after the announcement was made (It’s a premium article). Here’s some quick math that he used if it was a perfect-odds world:

Ignoring foils, if you opened 100 boxes of Shards (36 packs per a box), using the 1 mythic every 8 packs ratio that Wizards quoted us, we’d get 450 mythics and 3150 normal rares that were cracked. With 15 different mythics and 53 non mythics we’d get, with perfect odds, 30 of each mythic and 59.4 of each rare. If we did this with a small set such as Conflux, we get the same 450 and 3150 total cards but 45 of each mythic and 90 of each rare. As you see, we still get a mythic is twice as hard to pull as a regular rare, which Mark Rosewater told us.

Individual # Per 100
Set Mythic Rare Mythic Rare
9th Edition 0 110 32.7
Ravnica 0 88 40.9
Guildpact 0 55 65.5
Dissension 0 60 60.0
Coldsnap 0 40 90.0
Time Spiral 0 80 45.0
Planar Chaos 10 40 90 90.0
Future Sight 0 60 60.0
10th Edition 0 121 29.8
Lorwyn 0 80 45.0
Morningtide 0 50 72.0
Shadowmoor 0 80 45.0
Eventide 0 60 60.0
Shards of Alara 15 53 30 59.4
Conflux 10 35 45 90.0
Alara Reborn 10 35 45 90.0
M10 15 53 30 59.4
Zendikar 15 53 30 59.4
Worldwake 10 35 45 90.0
Rise of Eldrazi 15 53 30 59.4

Planar Chaos is different because of the Colorshifted uncommons and rares that were sorted that way. There was a slot in the booster pack where it was either a colorshifted uncommon or rare. A ratio of 1:4, you’d get a rare instead of an uncommon. The mythic spot is occupied by that colorshifted rare.

Congratulations, You’ve Got a Bunch of Numbers.

What does this mean?  Compiled with the smaller sized sets, it has never been easier, on a consistent basis, to get the rares you want. For today’s small sets,usually the second and third sets in a block, the odds of pulling any rare are the same odds as pulling it from a box of Coldsnap or Planar Choas (Colorshifted cards aside). 10th Edition, which was the largest set in these groups of sets, has the smallest percentage of being able to pull the rare you’re looking for.

Case Study: Birds of Paradise has been printed in three sets during this time; Ravnica, 10th Edition and M10. If you wanted to buy a box and pull a BoP, which set would give you the best percentage that your box would include one of said card?

Ravnica – 40.9% chance (36 packs per a box/88 rares in the set)
10th Edition – 29.7% chance (36/121)

M10 – 67.9% chance (36/53)

Clearly, the M10 is the way to go. But, that’s not actually the right math. Since mythics actually take the place of rares once out eight packs, it skews the numbers a little. Some quick math: (1/8 * 36 = 4.5 Mythics per a box, 7/8 * 36 = 31.5 Rares per a box) and we get a new number:

M10 – 59.4% chance (31.5/53)

Of course, if we take a look at the BoP prices, we can gather how difficult they are to pull which go along the same lines:

Ravnica – 85 in stock - $7.99
10th Edition – 25 in stock - $9.99
106 in stock - $3.99

Because it’s easier to acquire M10 ones by opening packs, they are the cheapest. Sure, the 25 in stock of the 10th edition ones might throw you for a loop, but consider that all three do exactly the same thing, have the same art, but the 10th edition one has the Flying reminder text. The reminder text on Flying is probably not worth $6 to you, right?

Because BoP have been around for so long, it’s easy to see the progression of the prices. Remember, because they are Standard legal at this moment, means you can play with any one of these copies:

Alpha – $199.99
Beta – $149.99
Unlimited – $24.99
Revised – $12.49
4th – $8.99
5th – $9.99
6th – $9.99
7th – $9.99
8th – $9.99
Ravnica – $7.99
10th – $9.99
M10 – $3.99

Besides the obvious blip in the older sets, Birds of Paradise had always been a $10 card. Because cards from the new set are easier to crack, the scarcity of it wanes and the price goes down. Let’s take a look at another card that has appeared three times, but for the third printing, it was moved up to mythic: Platinum Angel. Being printed in Mirrodin, 10th and M10, we’re going to ask the same question: which would be the better box to buy if you wanted to crack one?

Mirrodin – 40.9% chance (36/88)
10th – 29.7% chance (36/121)
M10 – 30% chance (4.5/15)

Whoa, that’s a big shift. The numbers for the M10 box reflect the numbers of mythics per a box (4.5) and mythics per a set (15). Yes, in a perfect world, you have a much better chance of pulling a rare Mirrodin Platinum Angel vs a mythic M10 one. Let’s take a look at the prices:

Mirrodin – 45 in stock - $3.99
10th – 12 in stock - $3.99
M10 – 52 in stock - $2.49

While some playability does affect the price of these two examples, they are still standard playable. Yes, more M10 boxes were cracked then any other set previously, but if you look at the numbers, it makes sense.

For these next figures, I’m using’s figures since I can’t go back and find out what the high points for older cards were.  Wotc was concerned about availability of top-tier mana fixing, so let's take a look at those.  The last set of new Duals were Shadowmoor - we’re going with friendly dual lands to compare - so let’s compare them to new duels within the new rarity system:

Set Card Colors High Price
Shadowmoor Mystic Gate W/U 8.38
Shadowmoor Sunken Ruins U/B 9.21
Shadowmoor Graven Cairns B/R 4.33
Shadowmoor Fire-Lit Thicket R/G 6.69
Shadowmoor Wooded Bastion G/W 6.27
M10 Glacial Fortress W/U 7.73
M10 Drowned Catacomb U/B 7.79
M10 Dragonskull Summit B/R 7.75
M10 Rootbound Crag R/G 7.56
M10 Sunpetal Grove G/W 7.86
Worldwake Celestial Colonnade W/U 4.00
Worldwake Creeping Tar Pit U/B 2.90
Worldwake Lavaclaw Reaches B/R 2.40
Worldwake Raging Ravine R/G 4.00
Worldwake Stirring Wildwood G/W 3.28

Of course, some of these depend on the deck that’s playing them, which is why we included all of the prices. While I feel these numbers could be a little flawed since it doesn’t go back far enough to when the hybrid lands we first introduced to Standard, I felt it was a good enough example.  Here are the odds that your box would have 1 of these duals:

Shadowmoor – 45% chance (36/80)
M10 – 59.4% chance (31.5/53)
Worldwake – 90% chance (31.5/35)

Yes, in a perfect world, your Worldwake box has 90% chance of having the dual land of your choice. Sure it’s a small set, but even the M10 box has a much better than a coin flip that the dual you want is in that box. Your manabase, which sometimes is the most expensive part of your deck to acquire, is now much cheaper to get. That, in turn, makes more people able to play the format since it’s easier to get into - the barrier to entry is much lower.

By taking a look at these numbers, you can see generally that card prices for rares are under more control. While Cryptic Command, Thoughtsieze, Bitterblossom, and Mutavault were all $20+ when they were in Standard, the only rares above $10 now are Knight of the Reliquary, Noble Hierarch, the Zendikar Fetchlands and Maelstrom Pulse since the new rarity debuted. Even with more reported players than ever more, the prices are lower even with a greater demand.

While that doesn’t solve the dilemma for prices of Mythics, Wizards did accomplish something it set out to do. All of the above cards from the new model see play in multiple tournament formats and various decks. The cards in Lorwyn block were mostly seen in Faeries (then to Quick ‘N Toast/Five Color Control) while a few have made an impact elsewhere. Players might complain that Vengevine and Baneslayer Angel are “Staples” to play in Standard,  but you sure don’t hear them complain about how easy it is to acquire a rare.  Maybe now that a great deal of the staples are more affordable, the doom-sayers can turn their attention to whining about Blue sucking again.

Kelly Reid

Founder & Product Manager

View More By Kelly Reid

Posted in Uncategorized

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11 thoughts on “You’ve Got Gold: How Wizards Crashed Gold Futures in Magic

  1. Before reading this, I disliked the existence of mythic rares. I liked the concept, but I disliked that a mythic rare could became viable enough to be played in Standard. Like Jace and Baneslayer. But, it's a necessary evil. It's not like R&D; should design terrible-to-play-competitively-for-the-most-part mythic rares on purpose. And then I read this.In this article, you clearly show that rares are more affordable because of the existence of mythic rares….However, the mythic rares themselves are quite expensive. But, I wonder if a player can ignore all mythic rares and just focus on purchasing rares and still have a viable Standard deck. I'd like to think so.So, I'm now happy the mythic rares are around. Kinda. I still feel like there's something that needs to be fixed, but maybe it's my unwillingness to completely change my attitude regarding mythic rares so quickly.But, those regular rares are more attainable. Hooray.Cheers,Bradley

  2. Have to agree with Christopher here – not sure what you are trying to prove. It is pretty self evident that Rares have become cheaper since mythics were introduced. The problems lies in the fact that the price of mythics has made decks,both casual and competitive, more expensive which is ultimately the only measure that matters. I don't stop wanting mythic cards just because the rares are cheaper.

  3. Rares have dropped in value. Great. This does not solve the problem that the 'newer, cheaper' rares can now no longer effectively trade for the chase cards in the set. With chase mythics overvaluing regular rares by a near 10x scale, good luck actually trading for what you want. Get ready to pony up the cash.

  4. I would like to see a comparison of the median price of successful decks in standard before and after mythics. My hunch is that it hasn't changed a whole lot, the mana bases are a lot cheaper these days. Another interesting measure might be the price of the necessary cards to build the top 5 standard decks, assuming you could share cards between decks. My guess is that having narrower cards at mythic and the more flexible cards at rare will bring that price down, but $70 Mythics are a pretty compelling argument to the contrary.

  5. Hmm, lets look at this:Top 2 decks of the last SCG 5K valued at SCG Prices:1st – UWR (12 Mythics) $745.842nd – Jund (2 Mythics) $285.53Difference – $460.31If you take out 2 mythics from each list so there are 10 left total the 460.31 averages out to $46.03 per mythic rare (1 CARD!). That is pretty out of hand even if the top tier rares are going for under $10.

  6. Top tier mythics aside though, here are the current financial averages from the last 4 sets based on SCG prices (plus seven 'average rares totaled up, to compare to mythics):ROE Mythics: $14.35Rares: $1.73$1.73 x 7 = $12.11WW Mythics: $12.39Rares: $1.71$1.71 x 7 = 11.97ZEN Mythics: $5.19Rares: $2.73$2.73 x 7 = $19.11M10 Mythics: $9.96Rares: $2.27$2.27 x 7 = $15.89ROE was just released, so mythics are still high in price due to hype. It seems only a select few mythics are really worth that much more than rares, but those few cards make it look like mythic rarity is a huge problem. Out of the Ridiculous cards (20+ dollars each) we have Elspeth, Baneslayer, Nocturnus, Jace TMS, Gideon, Vengevine and Sarkhan the Mad. These are the only mythics over 20$ currently, while Maelstrom Pulse is the only rare over 20$ (Hierarch is close). Two rares in Conflux are worth more than any of the mythics in the set.This is just some data to consider and, honestly, it doesn't make mythics seem that bad. Sure, if everyone plays Jace his price will Skyrocket, but he's not even close to being a universally used card (yes he is played in every format). Tarmogoyf is a regular rare who could fit into multiple archetypes in every format and he is currently more valuable than Jace.

  7. A long, rambling, and ultimately pointless article laden with pseudo-valuations that could have been succinctly summarized as: Speed costs money. How fast you want to go? By pseudo-valuation, I mean any comparison not taking the rate of inflation over a given time period into account is inherently flawed. Comparing numbers from different time periods as was implicitly done here only demonstrates ignorance. Ben's article was better. Besides, SCG is far from being a 'consistent raiting' source, as was claimed…

  8. The lower number of rares per set, which came at the same time as the introduction of mythics, has driven down the price of rares. Don't conflate that with the mythics themselves lowering the price of rares, because that's simply incorrect.Also, the Birds of Paradise example isn't great: BoP has largely been replaced by Noble Hierarch in any deck that would want to run it. As a result, there's a drastically diminished demand for it along with the increased supply, hence lower prices.

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