Browse > Home / Strategy / Articles / The Expected Value of Amonkhet

The Expected Value of Amonkhet


Amonkhet is looking pretty exciting, with new gods, powerful planeswalkers, and exciting returning mechanics. With prerelease events now in the books, it's time to turn our attention ahead to Friday—the official release date for the set. As you probably know by now, it's sort of a tradition around here that every time a new set comes out, I do an article breaking down the expected value, and today it's Amonkhet's turn. 

Over the past couple of sets, I've been struggling with just when to write the EV article. In the past, I published it as soon as the full set was spoiled, but this leaves a two-week gap before the set release, and since prices often change quickly when a set is new, the numbers can end up less than accurate by release day. I considered doing it on release weekend, but this didn't feel right either. Since my articles go up on Sunday night, people wouldn't have the information on release day; plus, a lot of people preorder boxes. This leaves prerelease weekend as the only possible time to do the article, and while no time is perfect, since prices are so volatile during release periods, prerelease weekend does have some benefits. First, we've had nearly 10 days since the full spoiler came out, which means prices have had a chance to adjust. Second, publishing on prerelease weekend still gives people a few days to preorder a box and have it shipped on release day. So, moving forward, I expect this to be the normal slot for expected value articles. 

Anyway, back to Amonkhet. The basic question we are looking to answer is pretty simple: is it worth it to crack a box based purely on the numbers? Basically, if I pay $100 for a box of Amonkhet, should I expect to get my money back, lose money, or come out a little bit ahead? Here, it's important to note that it's never, ever worth it to crack a box over the long haul. Even if the expected value is positive on release day, it won't be in a few weeks. Generally speaking, vendors get boxes for 70-something dollars, and over the long haul, the amount of value you'll get from a box has to drop below this number (on average). If the the cards in a box are worth more than the sealed box, you can bet that people will be opening boxes like crazy, which in turn increases the supply of the cards in the set and brings down the prices of the cards.

One more thing before getting into the meat of the article: it's important to remember that there are many reasons why people buy a box. Some people buy boxes because cracking packs is fun. Others buy boxes to play limited with their friends. For some people, buying a box is a tradition, or they enjoy the lottery aspect of opening a Masterpiece edition of Hazoret the Fervent. All of these (and I'm sure there are many more) are fine reasons to purchase a booster box, even a low-EV booster box. When it comes right down to it, Magic is a game—there is value in having fun, and EV calculation can't account for this non-monetary value. So, don't let this EV calculation be the only factor in your decision of whether to buy a box

What Is Expected Value?

While many of you are probably familiar with the concept of expected value, here's a brief refresher. Expected value tells us just how much value we can expect to open in a booster box. To calculate EV, we first determine the odds of opening a specific card (this is the "multiplier" you'll see throughout the article). Next, we calculate the value of each card. Then, we multiply the odds of opening a card by the card's value, which tells us how much value we expect that card to add to the box. Finally, after we do this for all of the cards in the set, we can simply add up the total and determine how much a box is actually worth.

TCGplayer Market Pricing

Most EV calculations use sell prices—things like TCGplayer Mid or the prices that vendors like StarCityGames or ChannelFireball ask for a card. But unfortunately, these numbers do not mean much to me for a couple of reasons: First, I (and most of you) can't get StarCityGames or TCGplayer Mid prices when we sell our cards (wouldn't that be nice?). Instead, we get things like eBay minus fees and shipping or buylist prices. As such, in calculating the value of the cards in the set, I'm trying to use the number that I realistically think I can get for the card tomorrow (this is important because new sets tend to decrease in value quickly). For this, I mostly use the TCG Market price (minus 15% for fees and shipping), which is basically the completed listings of the TCG Marketplace and shows the actual prices that cards have sold for, and not just what people are asking for their cards. This is why the prices listed in the charts in this article are lower than the MTGGoldfish price: I'm making deductions that take into account the "hidden" costs of selling the cards.

Timing is everything when it comes to making a profit by opening boxes, as prices drop quickly once a new set starts being opened. A set can go from positive EV to negative EV in less than a week, sometimes even overnight. Basically, by opening boxes on release day (or release weekend), we can take advantage of the excitement for the new cards (new demand) and the fact that the freshly opened cards haven't had time to reach the market yet (lack of supply).

Methodology Notes

  1. Commons (except in very rare cases) are considered to be bulk, which I value at $5.00 per thousand. This means that an entire booster box worth of commons adds $1.80 to the expected value of the box.
  2. Most uncommons are also worthless for the purpose of calculating EV, since they cannot be reliably sold as singles. Apart from a handful of "chase" and "semi-chase" uncommons, everything else at this rarity goes into the bulk pile along with the commons.
  3. Foils get their own section, but it's important to remember that there is a ton of variance in opening valuable foils. The odds of opening a foil Gideon of the Trials is somewhere around 1 in 3,200 packs; however, every box should contain some number of foils (typically a handful of commons, a couple of uncommons, and one rare), and these lower-rarity foils do represent some amount of guaranteed value.
  4. Like the last few sets, Amonkhet has its own edition of the Masterpiece Series in Invocations. Considering just how rare it is to open one of these cards, they will be going in their own special section, and we'll essentially be calculating two different expected values: one without the Invocations and one with the extra value of the Invocations added.
  5. These prices won't be good for long. Remember: the idea is to determine if Amonkhet is worth opening on release weekend. If you buy a box six weeks from now, don't blame me when these prices are wrong because I can tell you right now they will be wrong and likely very wrong. Remember that the EV is a snapshot based on current prices, and not a prediction of where prices will be in the future.
  6. Another reminder: you don't actually make a profit until you sell the card. So, just cracking boxes on release weekend isn't enough; you need take the next step and actually trade away the cards, list them on eBay / TCGplayer, or sell them to a buylist.
  7. Finally, be aware of variance. These numbers will be accurate if you open enough packs. But, like most aspects of Magic, variance can have a huge impact in small samples. In theory (although not in practice), a booster box could contain zero mythics and all bulk rares, or it could contain a complete set of foil mythics. The more packs you crack, the more accurate the EV will become because you smooth out these outliers.

Amonkhet: Mythics

$ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00

Amonkhet—Mythics
Card Value Multiplier EV Added
Gideon of the Trials $21.22 0.3 $6.36
Nissa, Steward of Elements $13.35 0.3 $4.00
Liliana, Death's Majesty $12.81 0.3 $3.84
As Foretold $10.96 0.3 $3.29
Rhonas the Indomitable $8.87 0.3 $2.66
Vizier of the Menagerie $5.76 0.3 $1.73
Angel of Sanctions $5.40 0.3 $1.62
Samut, Voice of Dissent $4.90 0.3 $1.47
Hazoret the Fervent $4.28 0.3 $1.28
Kefnet the Mindful $4.14 0.3 $1.24
Glorious End $3.54 0.3 $1.06
Bontu the Glorified $3.54 0.3 $1.06
Oketra the True $3.47 0.3 $1.01
Combat Celebrant $2.84 0.3 $0.86
Cruel Reality $0.60 0.3 $0.18
Totals      
Average Mythic Value $7.05    
Total Value Added to Box $31.73   316

The mythic slot in Amonkhet is weird. Before calculating the numbers, I assumed that the mythics would be lacking in value, mostly because the set is lacking the one really expensive mythic to help drive up the average value (while Gideon of the Trials is a chase mythic, at just over $21, it isn't the same as Liliana, the Last Hope, Chandra, Torch of Defiance, and the other uber-expensive case mythics we've seen in some recent sets). However, it seems that the depth of the rarity helps overcome the lack of one super-expensive card. While not quite as high as Kaladesh, the average mythic value of $7.05 is really solid (for comparison, the average mythic of Aether Revolt at this time wasn't even $5). All things told, the mythics add $31.73—a solid if unspectacular number.

Maybe the most exciting part of the mythics is just how few duds there are in Amonkhet. While you don't want to open Cruel Reality, every other mythic is worth more than the pack it came from (assuming you buy a box for $100), and a full third of the mythics are worth about $9 or more. In Aether Revolt, on the other hand, just under half of the mythics were worth less than a pack, and only 16.67% were worth $9 or more.

In short, not just the value of the Amonkhet mythic, but the way the value is distributed is good news for everyone who plans on opening the set. Nothing feels quite as bad as getting lucky by opening a mythic, only to find out that you were actually unlucky because your mythic is horrible and valueless, and there will be comparatively few feel-bad openings with the set. If you are hoping to strike it rich by hitting a Tarmogoyf or Liliana of the Veil, the mythics of Amonkhet don't offer much potential, but if you're a fan of good, consistent value, Amonkhet is a great set to open, at least as far as the mythics are concerned. 

Amonkhet: Rares

$ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00

 

Amonkhet—Rares
Card Value Multiplier EV Added
Harsh Mentor $6.04 0.59 $3.87
Glorybringer $4.68 0.59 $2.17
Irrigated Farmland $2.81 0.59 $1.66
Fetid Pools $2.75 0.59 $1.62
Scattered Groves $2.66 0.59 $1.57
Sheltered Thicket $2.62 0.59 $1.54
Canyon Slough $2.55 0.59 $1.50
Channeler Initiate $2.27 0.59 $1.34

Drake Haven

$2.27 0.59 $1.34
Soul-Scar Mage $2.17 0.59 $1.28
Champion of Rhonas $1.93 0.59 $1.14
Pull from Tomorrow $1.75 0.59 $1.03
Shadow of the Grave $1.64 0.59 $0.97
Insult // Injury $1.46 0.59 $0.86
Aven Mindcensor $1.39 0.59 $0.82
Glory-Bound Initiate $1.34 0.59 $0.79
Anointed Procession $1.30 0.59 $0.77
Cascading Cataracts $1.30 0.59 $0.77
Heart-Piercer Manticore $1.27 0.59 $0.75
Prowling Serpopard $1.20 0.59 $0.71
Plague Belcher $1.14 0.59 $0.67
21 Bulk Rares $0.10 0.59*21 $1.24
11 Semi-Bulk Rares $0.25 0.59*11 $1.60
Totals      
Average Rare Value $0.97    
Total Value Added $29.26    

At an average value of less than a dollar ($0.97), the rares of Amonkhet are quite disappointing from a value perspective. With recent non-Masterpiece sets, the average rare value has been somewhere between $1.25 and $1.50. For Masterpiece sets, the average value has been about $1.10. Basically, Amonkhet is extremely lacking in the rare slot, and this diminished value more than outweighs the slightly above-average mythic slot, adding just $29.26 to the value of a box. So, why is Amonkhet such a bad set for rares?

  • Lacking High End: Harsh Mentor is the rare you want to open, at over $6.00 a copy, but the value drops off quickly after the red rare. In fact, only three rares are worth more than a pack, which is pretty miserable. This means that just 5.7% of the rares are a good open, compared to 11% in Kaladesh, 15% in Shadows over Innistrad, and 19% in Eldritch Moon
  • Less Valuable Land Cycle: Typically, a rare land cycle helps with value, since rare lands are usually among the most valuable rares in the set. Unfortunately for value lovers, while fun and playable, the cycling lands just aren't worth all that much.
  • Uncertainty: The other possibility is that the rares of Amonkhet are currently undervalued due to uncertainty about the Standard format, and once we have the banned-and-restricted announcement on Monday, values will rise, bringing Amonkhet back in line with sets like Kaladesh and Aether Revolt. While there isn't any hard data, I have seen a decent number of people on social media talking about not buying cards until they know what the Standard format will look like. Of course, the downside is that Wizards could come back with a no-changes announcement, and that probably wouldn't do much to help prices, since most Standard players already have their deck. Without bannings, it seems unlikely that anything will unseat Mardu and Copy Cat at the top of the format.
  • Aftermath Cards: While I'd like to blame aftermath cards (and other bulk rares) for Amonkhet's problems in the rare slot, this doesn't seem to be the case. The bulk-rare rate is actually a bit lower than in other recent sets. Instead, the biggest shift we see is in the middle, with a ton of cards falling into the $1–$2 price slot, while the high end (anything $3 or more) is severely lacking. 

Amonkhet—Uncommons / Commons / Bulk

$ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00

Amonkhet—C / U / B
Card Rarity Value Multiplier EV Added
Bone Picker UNC $1.12 1.35 $1.51
Cast Out UNC $0.68 1.35 $0.92
Lord of the Accursed UNC $0.52 1.35 $0.70
By Force UNC $0.37 1.35 $0.50
Censor UNC $0.30 1.35 $0.41
Wayward Servant UNC $0.30 1.35 $0.41
Bulk C / U   $5 / Thousand   $2.40
Totals        
Total C / U / B Value Added $6.85      

Not much to see here. While there are occasionally exceptions to the rule (see: Fatal Push in Aether Revolt), one of the most consistent aspects of modern Magic sets is that the lower rarities are almost always worthless. While Bone Picker and Cast Out are the chase uncommons, they aren't really cards you're excited about opening from a value perspective, only being worth about $1—not nearly enough to save the pack from a bad rare / mythic. All things told, the commons, uncommons, and bulk add $6.85 to the expected value of Amonkhet, which is the same range as most other recent sets. 

Since we are in the "other" category, we might as well take a second to talk about the tokens of Amonkhet. Since embalm is one of the set's main mechanics, Amonkhet has a record-breaking number of unique tokens. Because of this, it seems that any individual tokens will be rarer compared to tokens in a "typical" set, which could increase their prices. The question is whether this could drive up prices enough that it actually impacts the expected value of a box. My guess is no, mostly because these tokens—even if they have value to vendors, who can sell them as add-ons to other orders—will likely be super hard for a normal player to sell. Most of the time, buylists aren't interested in in-print tokens, and while I've seen a handful of Amonkhet token presales on eBay in the $0.25 range, this number is tiny compared to how many of these tokens will be out there. As such, for a combination of these reasons, I've decided to not value the tokens for our expected value calculation, although there is a chance that a specific token for a heavily played card could add an extra dollar or two of value, if you can find a way to sell it.

Amonkhet—Foils

Amonkhet—Foils
Rarity Average # per Box Average Value EV Added
Mythics One every six boxes (0.17 per box) $22.50 $3.82
Rares One per box $4.36 $4.36
Uncommons Two per box $0.30 $0.60
Commons Three per box $0.10 $0.30
Totals      
Foil Value Added to Box $9.08    

Foils are mostly like uncommons, in the sense that their value doesn't change much from set to set. Altogether, the rarity adds about $9 to the value of an Amonkhet box. If you decide to open some packs, make sure to keep an eye out for Bone Picker (sold out at $8 on SCG) along with By Force, Cast Out, and Censor (all sold out at $3 on SCG), which are some of the best foil uncommons to open in the set. Also, keep a look out for foil full-art lands. While the non-foils are relatively valueless, the foils are listed on SCG for about $8 a copy, which is more than any rare and most mythics from the set. Here again, we don't have a $30 Fatal Push, but there is some good depth at uncommon, which means it's not all that unreasonable to luck into a couple extra dollars of value, if you know what you're looking for. 

Putting It All Together

Amonkhet—EV Summary
Rarity Average Price Number Value Added
Mythic
$8.35
15 $31.73
Rare $1.09 53 $29.26
Commons / Uncommons / Bulk     $6.85
Foils   6 (per box) $9.08
TOTAL BOX EV $76.92    
PACK EV $2.14    

So, there you have it. If we pretend that Invocations don't exist, the expected value of a box of Amonkhet comes in at a lacking $76.92. This pre-Masterpiece number is down about 11% from Kaladesh and 5% from Aether Revolt. The good news is that boxes themselves aren't super expensive, with presales on eBay dipping below $90, so if you can shop around and get a decent price on your box, you should be able to about break even, but all in all, this isn't an exciting number.

However, as I mentioned before, I wouldn't be surprised to see the EV of Amonkhet increase over the next couple weeks if something in Standard gets banned tomorrow. A lot of the cards in the set seem powerful but not quite powerful enough to compete with the two big decks in Standard. If we get a banning, the demand for these cards should increase, especially with a Pro Tour on the horizon, and while I don't expect this increase to make boxes massively profitable, it would likely bring it up to the break-even point and put it in line with other Masterpiece sets.

Of course, we still have one more rarity to go: the ultra-rare Amonkhet Invocations. While you won't get one of these cards in a typical box, they do add value to the set and are worth discussing. That said, unless you are planning on opening a lot of boxes (to help even out variance), I'd probably plan on getting the non-Masterpiece value and treat the possibility of opening a super-sweet, super-expensive Invocation as a bonus lottery ticket that you get for free when buying a box of Amonkhet.

The Invocations

 

$ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00

In the past, I've listed out every single Masterpiece series card, but considering we'll have these cards in every set moving forward (and there are a lot of them), this seems a bit excessive, so let's get right down to the numbers. Using TCG pricing, the average retail value of an Amonkhet Invocation is $51.73. If we deduct 15% for fees / shipping, this number drops to $43.97. Considering that you'll get one of these cards in about one in every four boxes, this means that the Invocations add about $11 in value to the expected value of a box of Amonkhet, bringing the total box EV up from $77 to $88, which is approximately $10 a box less than either set from Kaladesh block and way less than high-EV sets like Khans of Tarkir or Battle for Zendikar

Discounting expected value for a minute, let's talk about the Masterpiece series in general. One of my biggest concerns with the series is that Wizards would quickly run out of good cards to print, and this seems to be happening. Check out this chart, which shows the average value of a Masterpiece card during prerelease weekend for each and every Masterpiece set:

I'm not going to spend too much time talking about Masterpiece-series cards here—this is an expected value article, after all—but the decline in value is pretty shocking. While this can partly be attributed to the controversial border and hard-to-read font, it's also true that the cards that make up the Amonkhet Invocations are simply not as good or valuable as those in past Masterpiece sets. The average Amonkhet Masterpiece is worth less than half of the average Battle for Zendikar Masterpiece, and even if we discount Battle for Zendikar as an outlier (thanks to the fetch lands), Amonkhet is worth almost half of Oath of the Gatewatch and Kaladesh as well. I remember when the Masterpiece series was first announced, I spent a lot of time teasing Chaz about how, with his luck, he'd open the worst of the cycle in his box: a $40 Battle for Zendikar dual land. This joke doesn't look so funny today, when the average Masterpiece in Amonkhet is worth roughly the same as the worst Masterpieces of Battle for Zendikar.  

More importantly, at least for me, the lackluster Masterpiece-series cards really diminish the excitement of opening a Masterpiece. While the variance in Battle for Zendikar was maddening, every pack was exciting because you knew you could beat the odds and suddenly go from losing your shirt to doubling up by opening just about any Masterpiece. In Amonkhet, even if you open a Masterpiece, you're not coming out that far ahead. Take the non-Masterpiece expected value of $77, add in $44 for the average value of a Masterpiece, and you'll see that, even if you manage to get lucky and open one of the ultra-rares, your box is only worth $121—only slightly more than what you paid for it. This isn't to say that Masterpieces are a bad thing, just that getting lucky and opening a Divert isn't really the same as getting lucky and opening a Scalding Tarn or Sol Ring.

Conclusion

And there you have it. Without Masterpieces, the expected value of Amonkhet is about $77, and with Masterpieces, it's about $88—neither of which is an exciting number at the moment. While a positive banned-and-restricted announcement could help raise prices and make the expected value look at little bit better, at this point, Amonkhet is looking like one of the least valuable sets we've seen in a couple of years. The good news is that if you can get a box for around $90, you should just about break even or only lose a little, so while opening a box for value is likely a bad idea, I still plan on cracking a couple for fun because I love opening boxes.

Anyway, that's all for today. As always, leave your thoughts, ideas, opinions, and suggestions in the comments, and you can reach me on Twitter @SaffronOlive or at SaffronOlive@MTGGoldfish.com.


More on MTGGoldfish ...

instant deck tech

Instant Deck Tech: Abducted Drake (Historic Standard)

budget magic

Budget Magic: $67 (15 tix) Wildfire (Modern)

podcast

Podcast 140: Everything Ixalan

instant deck tech

Instant Deck Tech: UW Unstable Bogles (Modern)


Next Article

Get Email Updates

Follow Us

  • S
  • S
  • S
  • S
  • S
  • S
  • S

Welcome to MTGGoldfish. We display prices for both ONLINE and PAPER magic. By default, what prices would you like to see?   

Online Paper