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The Nutt Draw: Why I hate Mythics

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Actually, I don’t hate Mythics. I just thought it was a catchy title. We’ve lived with Mythic cards for almost two years now and it seems that for better or worse they are here to stay. At this time I’d like to share my thoughts and comments that were previously only available in a limited edition spoken word version that I’d willingly rant to anyone who’d listen.

Back in the day we weren’t pampered with rarity symbols on the cards. We’d open our packs of white bordered cards and have to guess at the rarity by analyzing the play value, in the snow, uphill, both ways. Serra Angel and Sengir Vampire were only bested by a Shivan Dragon. Will-o'-the-Wisp was a bomb and Moxes were $50. We’d anxiously await the next edition of Scrye magazine to discover what cards might be worth and what their rarities really were. A guy named Roach that came to the Buzzard’s Reach weekly events above Sharkey’s Bar in Sumner, Washington had developed a pricing system that defied Scrye, forgoing dollars for “points.” We had no such luxuries like different colored set symbols to use to divine card values. With nary a foil in sight there were many subtle levels to the rarity. Sometimes on the weekdays we would make our way to the Wizards of the Coast main offices in Renton, Washington for a tour of the facilities. The guided trespass through a sea of Nerf weaponry was filled with awe and wonder. We spent our stay dodging air propelled munitions from said Nerf guns, talking to artists, trying to figure out what went on in the guarded central offices on the main floor, and it all ended with the gift of a starter deck.

1st Highest Priced

This is taxing my memory a bit, but I think that there were 2 levels of common and uncommon, and 3 of rare (those numbers might be reversed). I’d confirm that but I can’t seem to locate my copy of Scrye from 1996 with the Borg Queen on the cover. This all came down to how the cards are printed on big sheets filled with Magical goodness (I used to have an Antiquities one laying around somewhere). C1 and C2 were simply the reference to how many of each card were printed on each sheet. It might be different now, but back then there were 121 cards per sheet (11x11) and the numbers don’t divide evenly so some cards were printed more often than others on the same sheets. An R1 has fewer copies on an uncut sheet then an R2 for example. Some publications listed out the number as a direct association to how many times a card appeared on a sheet. I’m not sure when this started happening, but I know that some of the Uncommons in Alliances were printed on the Rare sheet (2 of each rare, 6 of the uncommon) and some of the Commons were printed on the Uncommon sheet.

2nd Highest Price

I’ve long contended that the Mythic class rarity is nothing more than the new rarity color slapped into the R1 slot. This would make sense for a few reasons…

  • The Mythics take up the slot of once rare cards.
  • Holding extra print runs and card sorting for the new rarity wouldn’t be necessary
  • Semi random distribution of 1 in 8 packs would be a natural byproduct
  • This would preserve the ratio of rarity as 2-1, rare to mythic.
  • In short, it doesn’t cost Wizards anything extra to produce them this way. WotC being a corporation makes them subject to the kind of bureaucracy that would normally strip them of the ability to make such wise decisions, but I still think it’s likely. The overall distribution of Mythic cards, about 2 of each per case of product, suggests that these R1 values are rarer then the previous R1s, but this is likely not much more than an effort to sell more packs.

    3rd Highest Priced

    All of the above is meant to suggest that the massive divide in cost between Mythics and Rares is a consumer driven phenomenon and not really based on card rarity. The Mythics certainly feel more rare then they are a little but it’s a line in the sand. It’s starting to feel as though some of the Mythics aren’t guaranteed to be $10+ and Rares aren’t doomed to being $5- but we’re not there yet.

    The lines drawn between the Mythic and Rare cards in the Shards block were a catalyst to short cutting the pricing variances. Over time we have learned that with an expanded player base, the market demand for certain cards can bear the weight of a $50 or even an $80 price tag and these lines mean that only a Mythic will get such a value (while “in print”). The non-theoretical existence of these prices promotes the notion of a higher ceiling on card values and virtually guarantees that it will continue. With such a large disparity in card values with identical allocation we’re going to get an equally large disparity in personal gains and losses due to correct or incorrect speculation (good thing you have Quiet Speculation huh?).

    4th Highest Price

    So what do I really think about Mythics? I think that things will settle down eventually, but that the new rarity colored symbol will continue to polarize pricing and act as a short cut to the cards we need to watch more closely. All in all, I’m fine with them.

    Should WotC care about the prices cards are getting to? I don’t think they should at all, but they seem to at least a little. I have no real data on this, but it seems like Baneslayer Angels are way more available in M11 then they were in M10… adding one more to the sheet as a knee jerk response to its meteoric rise in price after the release of M10 certainly feels like something a concerned company might do. In reality, Wizards sees no direct income from the singles market, so they need to find ways to move more packs. One could argue that there is a certain symbiosis with singles sales since we often buy singles where we buy packs.  Most Magic retailers live and die by singles sales so higher values and more in demand cards helps out Wizards main line income source. Higher valued cards also means that our favorite places to play will stay in business.

    5th Highest Priced

    So far, I would say that the decision to introduce the Mythic rarity has probably worked out much better then Wizards of the Coast or anyone else could have predicted.

    [iframe https://spreadsheets.google.com/pub?key=0AukC5EWiTvOpdE1fQjE4bFdmMHJ5ZE84d2tNbjhsN2c&single=true&gid=9&output=html 600 300]

    Chris McNutt

    Born in Seattle, Washington, Chris McNutt has been playing and collecting Magic: The Gathering since Unlimited Edition. As an active player, tournament organizer and judge he regularly scrubs out of Pro Tour Qualifiers but inexplicably cleans up at the local draft tables. When not net decking Chris is either busy working as an Information Technology Sales Rep or spending time with his family. Other non-magical pastimes include playing guitar and an unhealthy number of video games. Cursed with an undying love of generating spreadsheets purely for “fun”, he’ll be crunching the numbers each week in order to serve up delicious data burritos to the salivating, hungry readers of Quiet Speculation.

    View More By Chris McNutt

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    13 thoughts on “The Nutt Draw: Why I hate Mythics

    1. Looks like you haven´t read MaRos article when they introduced Mythics.
      1 rare sheet has 121 cards, a large set like M11 has 53 rares and 15 Mythics, every rare appears on the rare sheet twice: 53*2=106+15=121

      So, Mythic rares indeed are R1 and normal rares R2, just like you wrote.

      About the Pack EV you list at the end of every article: where do you take the data? ebay?
      And does that mean I should buy M11 packs and sell the singles since I can get packs for $2.95

      1. @Martin

        Kewl, thank you for confirming the rarity distribution. I'm glad I guessed right. I did miss that article that Rosewater wrote.

        The EV calculations are from eBay. The totals represented are for every card in the set that has a record of sale in the last week or month (week is the priority unless unavailable) and then combined. Personally I look at the end results of those values as more of a guide to tell me what the best value will be out of packs. The things to keep in mind are that the values are real since they are only from actual auctions, but that eBay tends to cost less then online stores or shops, and they don't account for shipping. Rather then looking at any one value as gospel I think it's better to look at how they compare with one another.

    2. Before you get caught up in selling singles on eBay just keep in mind your capital requirements and what exactly a "lot of work" is. 120 packs per set means 13 boxes on average per playset. So much of the ev is based on 1-2 cards, then you need to guarentee you get those cards. The only way to do that is to open a LOT of product. The more you open the better your average will be. I'm willing to bet by the time you aquire 3 cases of product, open it, sort it and sell it (paying 12-15% fees) that the margin for the work you are doing may not be worth your time after all.

      These last two core sets have been rather profitable, but I would never try to make money with my cost at $2.95 a pack.

      @Chris I still can't see your pictures.

      1. Those are all good points and gave me an idea for a few new calculations to add for the next update. I've found that in opening one case (not just 6 random boxes, but a sequentially marked case) you end up with a playset of all the rares and about half a set of mythics. 2 sequential cases would yield almost exactly a playset of mythics. This is of course intentional. If someone is going to try and reproduce these results they will need to buy them all at one time and from one source. Random boxes (over time or random sources) totaling 12-13 will not yield the same consistency.

    3. If you're planning on buying boxes and selling singles, you have to keep in mind that variance is you biggest enemy. I wouldn't vouch for Chris's statement that by buying two cases of booster boxes, you'll get a playset of every Mythic. Chances are you miss out just on one or two Mythic Rares and you loose. The problem nowaday is that over 50% of a sets value is made by Mythics.
      A Worldwake complete set is available for 140 €, whereas Jace is worth half of it. The higher the variance in single prices, the bigger the number of booster boxes you need to get a positive EV.

      1. That's true. In fact the statistical average for a full playset in a large set is 13.3 boxes (just over 2 cases). The distribution of the cards over a single case is so regular though that it has to be intentional. It makes even more sense that a case like quantity would have a standardized distribution of rares and mythics when you consider that this model caters to the secondary market that cracks cases for singles sales at the beginning and even throughout the lifetime of a set. You can depend on getting playsets at 13. boxes if you are opening enough of them. If you're only opening exactly 13.3, you'll likely be a card or 3 short as Mathias says. That being said, if you're trying to sell off all the cards, not just the big ones and are successful, you can make some money as long as your acquisition cost is low enough.

    4. "A Worldwake complete set is available for 140 €, whereas Jace is worth half of it. The higher the variance in single prices, the bigger the number of booster boxes you need to get a positive EV."
      —————-

      Simply buying more as a rule of thumb doesn't work. The higher the variance in singles prices, the more variance there will be in your EV buying boxes unless you somehow eliminate that variance.

      If what's stated in this thread is correct and you yield roughly one full playset of mythics from cracking two cases, then that is a unit of safe purchase (in successive boxes) for stabilizing your EV. If you don't want to be devastated by your last box ending three boosters before the next JtMS, you would try to buy two or four or six… cases to reduce the chances you don't get what you expect. Tacking on a third case would actually increase the possibility of getting screwed. Overtime it would all even out so if you've got a large operation it might be correct to just not waste time worrying about it, and to buy whatever suits YOUR situation the best.

      In large sets there's no mystery, there are 53 rares and 15 mythics, 53×2+15=121… PERFECTO! So for every 121 consecutive packs you open in a large set you will get a full print run, 2xrares 1x mythics.

      If there are 35 rares in a small set, with 10 mythics, then 35×2+10=80 rare slots to cover per print run. I could assume that means every 80 consecutive boosters in a small set yields 2xrares 1x mythics. I don't know exactly how small set print runs work with mythics so I can't be sure, but if so, here's what a few headbutts on the calculator tells me:

      Full Runs
      Needed Slots
      Boxes
      To
      Build

      1
      80
      36
      72
      108

      2
      160
      144
      180
      X

      3
      240
      216
      252
      x

      4
      320
      288
      324
      X

      The idea is for the number of boosters in the consecutive boxes opened to match up PERFECTLY with the number of rare slots needed for x number of print runs. You need to open 20 consecutive boxes (3 1/3 cases) to complete 9 perfect sets of mythics and 18 sets of rares for small sets. More likely, 10 cases for 27 sets. At that point the difference +/- one Jace makes is negligible anyhow.

      If everything here is correct, then 9 boxes, or 1.5 cases, is 324 packs, and there are 320 rare slots needed to cover four print runs. That works out okay… though you'd probably want to double it to three cases, who knows if the half-case immediately follows the full case? Heck, even buying three cases, maybe you'd get case 15, 18 and 19. Does any dealer specifically endorse the cases they sell as consecutive? If so I'd imagine that's who I'd buy mine from. I'm not even sure if it's claimable, I don't know how it arrives or anything, but if it was like 12+ cases and the dealer cracks packs themselves as well, they could easily figure out the order the cases are placed in… because let's face it, if there's one thing we can always count on WotC to do, it's to keep the cards in order.

      1. I think you're right on with most of those numbers (the chart didn't format well). The only real issue is that I don't know how well you could depend on the cases relieved to be in order unless you bought an entire pallet since there's no way to tell how they are stacked or unstacked in case form. It's not impossible, but pretty impractical. Also not included in either of our figures is that some of the missing mythics could be filled in with random foils.

    5. Actually, wait… do foils even disturb the flow of rares/mythics? Doesn't any foil inserted always replace a common, no matter what rarity the foil is? I think that's why it's possible to open a booster with a foil mythic and a regular mythic inside, not 100% though.

      1. Yes, the foils take the place of a common. There's no big loss there in terms of completing common playsets but it will randomly give you an extra mythic or rare. Whether you count the foils in for the complete sets or not they serve as a nice bonus. Per the back of the booster packs the foils are about 1 in 70 cards (1 in 5 packs).

    6. Yeah, no harm done, you're definitely going to end up with excess commons if you're opening up enough packs to create playsets of rares/mythics.

      Unless they changed it, 1 in 64 cards is foil. A nice bonus but nothing to count on. VERY rarely will you miss out on a Searing Blaze and get a foil… Goblin Roughrider?

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