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Unlocked: Core 19’s Set Price and the Treasure Chest Update

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Welcome back, folks. I hope y'all are enjoying your Core 19 drafts – it's a fun format so give it a try if you haven't already. In fact, it's my favorite format since Amonkhet.

The number of people drafting the set has steadily gone up. At first, it looked like draft participation levels had returned to the levels of one year ago, but as of today, Core 19 is being opened on MTGO at a rate roughly equivalent to that of Rivals of Ixalan, with the competitive league holding about 850 people at any given time. This is something to pay attention to, because it will affect the future prices of the cards, and may affect when the best time to redeem sets will be.

I. Core 19's Set Price

One question that has come up on the QS Discord is when Core 19 will bottom out. Many QS subscribers have been surprised by the low the value of Core 19. Just one week after its release, a redeemable Core 19 set cost less than one of Dominaria. According to GoatBots, it currently costs $65 to redeem a set of Core 19 and $72 to redeem a set of Dominaria. That's remarkable.

This has investors wondering just how low Core 19 can go, and wondering whether buying redeemable sets before redemption begins on August 8th is the smart move. We should keep the following in mind:

1) There are no masterpieces in Core 19. As I've explained in prior articles, the presence of masterpieces in a set slashes that set's value by about 25 percent. That's the only way that a set of Amonkhet could have been redeemed for $44, or a set of Hour of Devastation for $43.

Let's take a look at the lowest redeemable set prices for the most recent sets without masterpieces.

The floor on redeemable sets seems to be around $53. While some sets command such a premium price that they'll stay elevated into the $70s or $80s, it seems that the laws of supply and demand in the paper world guarantee that a redeemable set of Magic Online cards will never dip below $50.

2) The cycle of elder dragons should help keep Core 19's redeemable set price in line with the others.

Although there might not be as many Standard or Modern cards in Core 19, these five iconic legends will help Core 19 maintain a normal paper price, and this in turn will make it less likely that Core 19 will be redeemable for significantly less than, say, Rivals of Ixalan.

In conclusion, although it is possible that you will be able to snag a redeemable set of Core 19 for $48 or $49 before redemption goes online, it's more likely that the set will bottom out closer to $52. If drafting (and therefore opening) the set becomes more and more popular (if, say, the competitive draft league reaches 900 people as Dominaria did), then maybe there will be a short time before redemption goes online where the price of a redeemable set will be below $50. Otherwise, I'd expect Core 19 to follow traditional patterns.

II. Treasure Chest Update

The treasure chests on MTGO underwent some noteworthy changes, and I'm here to give you an overview! If you want to see a full list of the changes, click here. For a complete list of treasure chest contents, click here. Big picture, the treasure chests EV shot up from $1.99 to $2.32 largely more by shedding worthless cards than by adding valuable cards.

1) A scaleback of Masterpieces has begun. This isn't something to act on yet, but it is noteworthy that, for the first time, we see a massive scaling back of the Zendikar Expeditions and Kaladesh Inventions. Expeditions are being replaced by their normal set versions, and many of the Inventions are being removed outright. If this scaleback continues, we may see these cards command a premium in the years ahead.

2) Battlebond!

Select Battlebond cards are being given their own slot with the latest treasure chest update. Some Legacy players were not happy that certain cards were not released, but newly appointed product manager for MTGO Alli Medwin has written that the remainder of desired cards will be released later this year.

Are any Battlebond cards going to replicate the success of Entourage of Trest or Palace Sentinels?

As many of you might know, Pauper is the third-most popular format on MTGO, and cards that find success in Pauper can command high prices. This is especially true for cards that come to Pauper only through treasure chests, like Conspiracy all-stars Palace Sentinels and Thorn of the Black Rose.

I do not believe that Battlebond is giving us any commons that look particularly appealing to play. The only possible speculation opportunities would have been Legacy cards like Brightling. The problem with these cards, though, is that they're being released as a trickle (a chest frequency of 1) instead of all at once, during a set period of time like most cards. Thus, these Battlebond mythics started right off the bat with bloated prices. Brightling is currently selling for more than 50.00 tix!

3) Speaking of Pauper...

Pauper's representation in the treasure chests continues to dwindle, and this makes me more interested in speculating on Pauper as time goes on.

In one regard, I like this because it means that buying into the format is a safer investment you'll be able to play with the cards without needing to worry about their prices dropping. On the other hand, I don't like seeing cards like Thorn of the Black Rose, Custodi Squire, and Palace Sentinels all cost $10 because of artificial scarcity.

Some consistency in their treasure frequencies is also needed. Custodi Squire isn't in the chests at all, while Entourage of Trest has a frequency of 6 and Palace Sentinels has a frequency of 20. Going forward, I'd like to see all Pauper cards introduced to MTGO exclusively through treasure chests to have frequencies of 50 for their inaugural two months and then dialed back down to a frequency of 6.

Now is a great time to buy your playsets of Hydroblast and Pyroblast. I'm also interested in speculating on Choking Sands (Mirage version) now that no new copies are entering the market. When Mono-Black Control gains prominence, Choking Sands' demand goes up. Flaring Pain, as well, seems like a good buy.

4) Which Dominaria cards will you find in treasure chests?

I was very puzzled by this selection, and by the uniformity of frequency. Usually the high dollar cards start at a 12 frequency, not a 6, so this bodes well for the future of Teferi and Karn. Also, usually bulk mythics like Muldrotha and Weatherlight are not included, so their presence here stands out. This means that the big mythic winners of the treasure chest update are:

All four of these cards have potential, and it's nice to see them not included in the chests. I've already bought about 40 Jhoira and 20 Naru Meha, and if Multani drops down to 0.25 tix or so, I may consider investing in him.

III. Signing Off

That's all for this week, guys. Let me know what stood out to you in the treasure update, and feel free to ask me any questions you may have! If you'd like to see a current copy of my portfolio, please message me on the QS Discord and I'll be happy to provide a link.  Happy drafting!

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