My last article focused on the financial ramifications of Wizards of the Coast extending the life of Standard sets by an additional year. While digging for potential speculation targets I noticed many Innistrad: Midnight Hunt mythics were selling at bulk prices (defined as less than $1). This led me to look at all the Standard-legal sets and the price values of their mythics. Here's what I found:
Breakdown Of Mythic Value of Standard Sets
|Mythic Valued Between|
|Set||Total # Of Mythics||$0-$1||$1.01-$2||$2.01-$3||$3.01-$4||$4.01-$5||$5+|
|Innistrad : Midnight Hunt||20||11||1||1||3||1||3|
|Innistrad : Crimson Vow||20||6||3||3||0||1||7|
|Kamigawa : Neon Dynasty||18||5||6||2||0||2||3|
|Streets of New Capenna||20||5||4||3||2||2||4|
|The Brother's War||23||9||3||0||0||0||11|
|Phyrexia : All Will Be One||20||3||0||0||1||3||13|
|March of the Machine||20||3||2||1||2||0||12|
This breakdown shows us that for all but the two latest sets, the majority of the mythics in each set are worth less than $5—in many cases, over half of a set's mythics are less than $3.
Mythic Valuations vs Expected Value
Now that we have broken down the Mythic valuations for each set, one would expect each set's estimated Return on Investment (ROI) to parallel this evaluation—given that mythics often carry the most value due to being a higher scarcity and higher power level. This means that if you have one set's mythics averaging $3 and another set's mythics averaging $15, it's logical to assume that the ROI for the first set would be lower than that of the second, (Note that none of this takes into account the fact that pull rates of a specific mythic are low).
Interestingly, the mythic valuations of each set do not correlate with the set's ROI. In fact, the boxes with the highest ROI are from Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty (of which 72% of its mythics are $3 or less). So what's going on here? Here's the expected value (EV) for every set currently in Standard:
Standard Set EV Breakdown (data taken from Dawnglare)
|Innistrad : Crimson Vow||$68.84|
|Streets of New Capenna||$69.69|
|Innistrad : Midnight Hunt||$71.14|
|The Brother's War||$76.43|
|Phyrexia : All Will Be One||$77.53|
|March of the Machine||$104.12|
|Kamigawa : Neon Dynasty||$111.08|
These Set EV calculations were done at TCGMarket pricing, incorporating the probability of each card opened in a given box of cards, and are not the cumulative valuation of the set as a whole. If mythic values are not what is determining set ROI, what is?
Breaking Down Standard
To figure out what is determining set ROI, I decided to take a look at the top six decks in Standard, and see which sets have the most played rares and mythics in the format. For this breakdown, I looked at the Standard Metagame breakdown for the top six decks in the format which account for 78.3% of the overall metagame off of MTG Goldfish. these decks are:
- Rakdos Midrange
- Grixis Midrange
- Azorius Soldiers
- 4c Ramp
- Mono-Red Aggro
- Orzhov Midrange
I counted the number of rares and mythics from each deck per set and kept a cumulative tally. For the last two columns, I took the total number of rares from each set one could play; i.e. the total number of rares or mythics in the set multiplied by 4, and then divided that number by the rares or mythics that were shown in the first few columns. Here's the full breakdown of the rares and mythics in the top six decks in Standard:
Standard Metagame Breakdown
|% Of Possible Played in Format|
|Innistrad : Crimson Vow||8||2||10||3.13%||2.50%|
|Streets of New Capenna||26||0||26||10.83%||0.00%|
|Innistrad : Midnight Hunt||24||4||28||9.38%||5.00%|
|Phyrexia : All Will Be One||27||6||33||11.25%||7.50%|
|March of the Machine||18||4||22||7.50%||5.00%|
|Kamigawa : Neon Dynasty||48||4||52||20.34%||5.56%|
|The Brother's War||31||0||31||12.30%||0.00%|
An interesting takeaway from this breakdown is the relatively small number of mythics being heavily played. I remember a lot of past Standard formats with a much higher mythic count in the top decks than this. Given the higher scarcity of mythics, those decks tended to cost more.
The number of rares in this breakdown which are mana-fixing lands, many of them reprints, is also interesting. Even including new lands like the SNC tri-lands, only a small handful have prices above $7. while this allows players the flexibility of playing top-tier decks without breaking the bank, which is a goal of Wizards of the Coast, I'm not sure that's the entire story. It's likely that part of the reason the cost is low is the lack of demand for staples due to the player base's limited interest in playing the format in paper. Whatever the reason, it is something else to take into account as we look at what sets are worth buying.
Set By Set Analysis
Now that we've looked at Standard as a whole, let's look at each of the Standard sets individually, and anything of note that might influence the decision to crack packs of the set.
Innistrad: Crimson Vow
This set has one of the lowest set EVs of any in Standard right now and the most valuable mythic is Toxrill, the Corrosive whose value is heavily tied to Commander. Toxrill aside, the set's only other valuable rare is Wedding Invitation. This is a set to avoid picking up packs or boxes of unless I desperately need to lose money quickly. This set has almost no representation in Standard. The only three rares I found in the top decks were Howlpack Piper // Wildsong Howlers, a speculation target I called out a while ago, but that was only in the sideboard of the Naya Ramp deck.
Streets of New Capenna
SNC sports a whopping four mythics valued above $5. Despite this, the set's EV is only slightly better than Innstrad: Crimson Vow. It's another set I'm hesitant to pick up any sealed product from. The saving grace is that it completes the tri-land cycle, all of which are valued above $6.50 currently. If we look at the Ikoria: Lair of Behemoth triomes, all of those have a market price of over $12, which bodes well for the SNC Tri-land price floor.
Innistrad: Midnight Hunt
Of the two, Innistrad-based sets, this one has by far the most representation in Standard. That said, it has the lowest set EV currently in Standard and many bulk mythics. The slow land cycle is about the only thing propping up the value. Apart from the slow lands, Few cards in the set have found a home in Standard. There are some good Commander cards like Unnatural Growth, but all in all, I'm steering clear of picking up any of this set moving forward.
Dominaria United only has two rares worth more than $5, Leyline Binding and Plaza of Heroes. Normally, I'd expect a set that has a lot of low-value mythics but a middle-of-the-pack set EV to include a few valuable rares. Obviously, this set does not. Instead, it looks like Sheoldred, the Apocalypse is unfortunately single-handedly carrying the value of the set. Any box we open with her in it is a good box—any without her is atrocious. The set's rares and mythics are quite playable, and DMU has the highest representation of mythics in the Standard format. To be fair though, a good number of those were just copies of Sheoldred.
The Brothers' War
I'll be honest I almost forgot this set even existed until I got to the Standard Metagame breakdown. There is little of note outside of a few big splashy mythics like Portal to Phyrexia. The set EV is tied heavily to the mythics which are about 50/50 when it comes to being worth the price of the pack. There are very few rares of note from this set and many bulk rares. I'm not risking playing this pack lottery.
Phyrexia: All Will Be One
This set demonstrates the importance of having value in the regular rare slot. 65% of Phyrexia: All Will Be One's mythics are valued above $5, with two above $25 and two above $15. Despite these numbers, the Set EV is still under $80. This means that opening ONE packs is quite a gamble. You have to hit a high-value mythic or rarer variant to "make your money back." The set is well represented in playability, but it doesn't translate into value. Set EV-wise ONE compares well with Dominaria United which ironically has the inverse problem, with 70% of its mythics valued under $5.
March of the Machine
I think it's worth noting that while MOM has the second-highest set EV on this list and a substantial number of mythics above $5 in value, it is also very recent. It's the set that is currently part of a lot of local game store (LGS) drafts, meaning a lot of product will continue to flood the market over the next few months. This means the values of almost everything in the set will trend downward. MOM also has few cards in the current top decks, which doesn't bode well for long-term value.
Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty
As mentioned earlier, this set has the highest set EV of any in Standard while also having a very low average mythic value. This shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone given this set brought us Fable of the Mirror-Breaker // Reflection of Kiki-Jiki and the channel lands like Boseiju, Who Endures. In fact, if choosing packs to buy or pick up as prize support, I'm taking NEO. It's the set most likely to give me bang for my buck. Given what's been said it isn't that surprising to see that NEO has a significant amount of rares showing up in Standard but was tied for third regarding mythics. The only one of note was The Wandering Emperor.
I am never one to promote "cracking packs," as it is almost always a losing strategy. That said, if one were determined to buy packs to do so or had prize support packs to choose, the only set in Standard I would touch is Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty. The set has a number of decent value rares, and the chances of getting something worth money are a lot higher than in every other set currently in Standard. I wouldn't fault anyone for buying up boxes of it at the current rate. There is a lot of value in the set and most of those valuable cards are playable in eternal formats. Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty feels like it's going to be one of those sets whose boxes go for $150+ a year or two after it rotates out of Standard.
NEO aside, it's important to note the other big takeaway of this exploration, which is just how bad the value is in most Standard boxes. Even stores that can likely get boxes between $76-$86 each can't justify cracking Standard-legal set boxes for single card inventory. I've been playing for a long time and I am having a hard time remembering a time when this many sets had EV values this low.