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Unlocked: The EV of Masters 25 on Magic Online

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With the release of Masters 25 fast approaching, it is time to examine the expected value of the set. Yesterday Lee Sharpe announced that the cost of the boosters, the cost to draft and the payout structures will be identical to those of Iconic Masters and Modern Masters 2017. Booster packs will cost $7 online and, with the doubled entry fee to draft, it will cost $25 to non-phantom draft this set.

Most other sites calculate the expected value of a given set in paper, but none look at how the expected value will play out on Magic Online. I'm here today to go over what you can expect to open when you sit down to draft Masters 25 and whether the widespread disappointment with the set is coloring our perception of its value on MTGO. Perhaps we have before our eyes the shadows on the wall of Plato's Cave, and we need the light of data to drive away misconceptions and turn our heads toward the sun.

Spoiler Alert: The rake for phantom drafts is an (always absurdly high) 32.5 percent. The rake on non-phantom drafts will be closer to a much fairer 21 percent! This was exciting for me to discover, and a big surprise at that. Continue reading to see all the details.

A methodological note before we get started. I am going to assume that foils are worth the same as the regular version of the cards. I am also going to assume that the watermarks will not command a premium. Both of these assumptions could very well be wrong, but I'm hoping that they will cancel each other out to present an accurate picture.

I. The Mythics

The mythic slot in Masters 25 is not good, contributing a meager $1.19 to the overall expected value of a booster of A25. There are simply too many duds, and more than half of the mythic slot's contribution to a booster's value comes from one card Jace, the Mind Sculptor. One problem is that this Masters set contains several mythics that have demand in Commander, a format that does nothing to sustain values on MTGO. Another problem is that one of the chase mythics in paper – Imperial Recruiter – has already seen print on MTGO. Its value is 3.53 tix now, compared to $67 in paper.

Overall I'd say that four of the fifteen mythics are hits. All four of these mythics are high-demand competitive staples, and all will be potential speculation targets in the coming weeks (stay tuned for Matt Lewis's article on the subject, and I may write one as well). I expect all of them to hold their values and not tank too much. Of the others, only Imperial Recruiter has real competitive demand, but I expect its price to stabilize between 1.75 and 2.5 tix.

I love how Tree of Redemption is worth 0.01 tix on MTGO – it's a difficult feat to achieve for a mythic rare.

II. The Rares

The rare slot in Masters 25 is also disappointing, contributing $1.58 to the expected value of a booster. Only 18 of the 53 rares have any real demand, and only three are worth more than the cost of a booster pack. Like the mythics, this selection of rares is worse for MTGO than it is for paper, and that's largely a consequence of the land cycle. While the filter lands have managed to hold a value north of $20 in paper, their values range from 0.45 tix to 1.19 tix on MTGO. I had predicted a reprint of the Worldwake manlands, and those would have been significantly better inclusions for the MTGO community. One reason Modern Masters 2017 was decent to draft on MTGO was that the Zendikar fetchlands were valuable both for paper and MTGO players.

One thing to keep in mind about some of these cards worth 0.25 to 0.75 tix because these cards are not traded frequently, bots don't pay a premium for them, oftentimes offering about half their sell value. These cards will be much tougher to move than Standard cards or Modern cards that see a lot of play.

III. The Uncommons – a Surprising Boon!

To give you some perspective Jace, the Mind Sculptor adds $0.59 to the EV of a booster. Ash Barrens is almost half as important, itself contributing $0.25 to the EV of a booster. This collection of uncommons together add a substantial $0.56 to the expected value of a booster. It will thus not be uncommon for you to be able to pick up some value during your draft even if you don't open a good rare or mythic.

IV. The Commons True Trees of Redemption for Masters 25

Most surprising of all is that the common slot in Masters 25 will contribute a whopping $0.71 to the expected value of a booster. With this group I am genuinely worried that this value will prove illusory since all of these cards should see major price drops. Normally I'd be optimistic about the future recovery of cards like these with significant Eternal demand, but their continued inclusion in treasure chests is going to make that difficult (see below).

V. Summing it all up! *Drum Roll.........*

$4.78 is the final number, and an unexpectedly high number at that! I had expected an EV of about $3.50, but $4.78 is actually comparatively decent. The reason the EV is substantially higher than one might expect is because of the all the quality commons and uncommons. This means that our draft experience will have a much more even financial outcome than we have grown accustomed to with Masters sets. No matter what, you are likely to come out of the draft with at least $3 to $5 of value.

There is, however, a significant downside to the fact that so much of the value of this set is harbored in the commons and uncommons. Because these cards will be receiving such a high infusion of fresh supply into the market, their values are likely to tank harder than a staple rare or mythic normally would. Worse, Lee Sharpe inexplicably kept these commons and uncommons in the treasure chests at roughly the same frequency as before, and even added Lightning Bolt and Brainstorm to the chests because...who knows. See the chart below:

Masters 25 & Treasure Chests

As a result of these cards being attacked on two fronts, we should expect their values to tank much harder than normal and have significantly harder times recovering value. While we will undoubtedly see the usual 20 percent to 25 percent decrease in value for these rares and mythics, we are likely to see these commons and uncommons decrease in value by 50 percent (or perhaps more).

VI. What does this mean for drafting Masters 25?

The cost to draft M25 is $25, and the payout structure is 6-2-2-2. Below will be your EV at each possible draft record on the first day of release:

3-0: +$31.34
2-1: +$3.34
1-2: -$10.66
0-3: -$10.66

This means that you're likely to have the following outcomes given a certain win percentage on the first day of release:

40% win rate: -$3.94/draft
50% win rate: -$0.16/draft
60% win rate: +$4.46/draft

Once drafting Masters 25 kicks into full gear, I'd expect the rares and mythics to lose 25 percent of their value, and commons and uncommons to lose 50 percent of their value. This means that that the expected value of a booster will likely end up closer to $3.11.  Thus you'll likely be dealing with a reality closer to the following when you draft:

3-0: +$26.33
2-1: -$1.67
1-2: -$15.67
0-3: -$15.67

40% win rate: -$8.95/draft
50% win rate: -$5.17/draft
60% win rate: -$0.55/draft

These numbers are better than Iconic Masters, but not as good as Modern Masters 2017. The break-even point will be about a 63-percent win rate, which is typical for a usual competitive league draft with a set without Masterpieces. Before writing this article, I did not expect to do any Masters 25 drafts, but after examining the EV, it seems like it is (just barely) justifiable to draft the set non-phantom. Don't draft it too much if you're trying to come out ahead, but there is enough value to indulge in a draft once or twice.

One word of advice: for Eternal cards it's usually best to use GoatBots or bots from the WikiPrice library. Cardhoarder and MTGOTraders, while great for Standard cards, tend to have buy prices significantly lower than the others for Eternal cards. For example, just yesterday I sold Sphere of Resistance to ManaTraders for 0.56 tix. Cardhoarder was offering only 0.43 tix. That difference is typical for Eternal cards.

I would like to see the entry fee reduced from $4 to $2 going forward, as that would make these sets truly exciting and experiences to look forward to. This set in particular is supposed to be celebratory. Nevertheless, Masters 25 has gotten too harsh a reception, and it will be significantly better to draft non-phantom than Iconic Masters.

I hope you enjoyed this breakdown, and I will see y'all next time!

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