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The Expected Value of Conspiracy: Take the Crown


It's a tradition that every time a new set is released, I publish an "expected value" article breaking down just how much value you can expect to open if you crack a box, but for Conspiracy: Take the Crown (hereby known as Conspiracy 2 for the rest of the article), I wasn't sure I wanted to do an expected value article. The problem I kept running into as the set was being spoiled and I was running the numbers was that the value looked good. Too good. 

Because Conspiracy 2 is an unlimited print run set like Eldritch Moon, it was incredibly clear that prices had to drop and drop a lot. As of last weekend (when I would have normally published the article), cards like Show and Tell and Berserk were preselling for $50 or $60: a price that is not only unsustainable but so high than no one outside of massive vendors like SCG would be able to get it for their copies. As such, I made the decision to wait all the way up until the release of the set before publishing an article. While I would love to see Conspiracy 2 sell well (because I would love to see similar sets in the future), the last thing I wanted to do was create the false perception that players would be able to sell their Show and Tells for $60. 

The good news is that prices have dropped significantly over the past week. Both Berserk and Show and Tell are down to around $30, and many of the other expensive cards from the set have decreased as well, creating a more realistic value scenario. Plus, the set is currently for sale, so if you want to, you can go and buy a box of Conspiracy 2 right now, open it, and sell all the cards you opened immediately, rather than waiting a week for the set to actually release. As a result (and because I've gotten a bunch of requests for an EV breakdown), I decided that the time was right to publish the article, but with a couple of important warnings. 

First, I still expect the prices of most of the cards from Conspiracy 2 to drop considerably, so if your goal is to sell some (or all) of the cards you open, you should do it as quickly as possible. I give this warning in every EV article, but I wanted to make sure it was especially clear in this one: these prices, while current, aren't likely to be good for very long. Second, I expect it will be more challenging than usual to sell Conspiracy 2 cards to buylist for a reasonable price, because the demand for some of these cards is not all that high (in comparison to the hot new Standard cards that come out in expert-level expansions). This is important because it closes the avenue that allows players to sell cards the quickest, so to move cards immediately and get close to full value, plan on trading or selling on eBay or TCGplayer

One last thing: cracking boxes is absurdly fun, and there are tons of reasons to open a box. As a result, a less-than-stellar expected value is not a reason to pass on a box. I've opened plenty of boxes knowing I was likely to lose money because it's worth spending some amount of money for the amount of fun I had cracking the packs. So, instead of being the only factor in whether or not you crack a box of Conspiracy 2, expected value should be one of many factors in your decision-making process. Additionally, if you want powerful and expensive reprints in unlimited-supply sets, you want Conspiracy 2 to succeed so we get more sets like this in the future. As such, if you are on the fence about buying a box, I would encourage you to do so, because the best way to show Wizards that this is what we want is by voting with our money.

What Is Expected Value?

While many of you are familiar with the concept of expected value (EV), 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 in any given box; 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, we simply add up the total and determine how much a box is actually worth.

TCGplayer Market Pricing

As of our last EV article, we switched from eBay pricing to TCG Market pricing, and all in all, the change seemed to work out well. As such, we'll be sticking with the same methodology for Conspiracy 2 (TCG Market minus 15% for fees) with one slight change: instead of using just the market price, well be using the lower of TCG Market or the lowest-priced NM copy on TCG (in some cases, the market price is actually higher than the lowest asking price, because prices have been falling so quickly). Once again, the old warning still holds true: when it comes to making a profit opening boxes, timing is everything. A set can go from positive EV to negative EV in less than a week—sometimes overnight—and this is doubly true of Conspiracy 2. If you're not planning on selling the cards from your box, that's fine, but if you are planning on selling / trading some (or all) the cards from your Conspiracy 2 box, the closer to release day you do it, the more money you'll make!

Methodology Notes

  1. Commons (except in very rare cases) are considered bulk, which I value at $5.00 per thousand. 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 are especially important to Conspiracy 2 for a couple of reasons. First, they are extemely valuable, mostly because the original Conspiracy foils were also very expensive. Second, some "first-time foil" cards in the set command a premium. As a result, we will break down the foils. Just be warned that your odds of opening a foil mythic are tiny, and even the odds you get a good foil rare in any given box are fairly low, so there's a lot of variance here.
  4. As for the Conspiracies themselves (and the other "draft-matters-slot" cards), we are essentially going to pretend like they don't exist since they will likely be incredibly difficult to sell in the near future. Think of them as a bonus; while they might not be worth anything, they could be fun to build a cube around.
  5. For the third time, these prices won't be good for long. The idea is to determine if Conspiracy 2 is worth opening right now. If you buy a box in a few weeks, 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, EV is a snapshot based on current prices, not a prediction of where prices will be in the future.
  6. Calculating EV is not a predictive exercise—it is a snapshot of value at a specific point in time. Recruiter of the Guard could spike to $50 after winning the next Legacy Grand Prix, or it could drop to $10, and it wouldn't make this EV calculation any more or less true. All that matters is the "now." 
  7. You don't actually make a profit until you sell the card. If you're not planning to keep all of the cards in your box, you need take the next step and actually trade away the cards, list them on eBay / TCGplayer, or sell them to a buylist.
  8. 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 sample sizes. In theory (but not in practice, since boxes are only semi-random), 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 becomes because you smooth out these outliers.

Conspiracy 2: Mythics

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Conspiracy 2—Mythics
Card Value Multiplier EV Added
Show and Tell $19.38 0.375 $7.27
Berserk $19.47 0.375 $7.30
Sanctum Prelate $16.36 0.375 $6.14
Daretti, Ingenious Iconoclast $9.65 0.375 $3.62
Kaya, Ghost Assassin $9.24 0.375 $3.47
Leovold, Emissary of Trest $7.04 0.375 $2.64
Selvala, Heart of the Wilds $3.38 0.375 $1.27
Queen Marchesa $3.19 0.375 $1.20
Platinum Angel $3.19 0.375 $1.20
Expropriate $2.04 0.375 $0.77
Subterranean Tremors $0.60 0.375 $0.23
Avatar of Woe $0.77 0.375 $0.29
Totals      
Average Mythic Value $7.85    
Total Value Added to Box $35.40    

During our last EV breakdown, I was raving about how much value was in the mythic slot of Eldritch Moon—it was by far the most valuable of any set in the past year, coming in 13% higher than the next closest set. Well, even though it isn't Standard legal, Conspiracy 2 blows Eldritch Moon out of the water as far as mythic value is concerned, packing 11% more value into the mythic slot. Essentially, there are three chase mythics, and as long as you get one of them, you are off to a great start to your Conspiracy 2 box. If you miss on all three, then things are a bit sketchy, since there is a significant drop off to the next tier of mythics, highlighted by Kaya, Ghost Assassin and Daretti, Ingenious Iconoclast. The goods news is that 75% of the mythics are worth more than the price of a pack (assuming you buy a box for $100 and not individual packs), so even if you don't end up a big winner, opening just about any mythic should be considered a small victory, which isn't true of many sets. 

Conspiracy 2: Rares

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Conspiracy 2—Rares
Card Value Multiplier EV Added
Recruiter of the Guard $13.47 0.79 $10.64
Inquisition of Kozilek $4.47 0.79 $3.53
Burgeoning $3.56 0.79

$2.81

Birds of Paradise $3.12 0.79 $2.46
Burning Wish $2.44 0.79 $1.92
Phyrexian Arena $2.41 0.79 $1.91
Selvala's Stampede $1.63 0.79 $1.29
Horn of Greed $1.49 0.79 $1.13
Gratuitous Violence $1.03 0.79 $0.82
Grenzo, Havoc Raiser $0.94 0.79 $0.75
Desertion $0.90 0.79 $0.71
Followed Footsteps $0.66 0.79 $0.52
Kami of the Crescent Moon $0.49 0.79 $0.39
Exotic Orchard $0.57 0.79 $0.45
20 Bulk Rares $0.10 0.79*20 $1.58
8 Semi-Bulk Rares $0.25 0.79*8 $1.58
Totals      
Average Rare Value $1.02    
Total Value Added $32.49    

The rares from Conspiracy 2 are a sort of good news / bad news situation. All in all, they add just over $30 to the value of a box, which is relatively lacking. Actually, the average rare value of just $1.02 is quite low for a set that was just released. This is partly because Conspiracy 2 contains a ton of reprints, so there isn't as much illogical hype about cards that fail to pan out, but mostly because the bulk rare rate is through the roof. Of the 40 "normal" (i.e., not draft-specific) rares, 28 are either true bulk or semi-bulk, meaning that nearly 75% of the time, you'll open a rare that's essentially valueless. In a normal set, this would be horrible and would suggest a ton of bad cards. However, Conspiracy 2 is unique, which leads us to the good news. 

The good news about the rares of Conspiracy 2 is that they've already been decimated price wise. Seriously, many of the cards have already lost between 50% and 75% of their pre-reprinting value, and as a result, we have real, playable, good cards showing up in the bulk category. While this is annoying for people looking to crack boxes for value, it's a great thing for players who are looking to crack playable cards and an amazing thing for players who want to pick up cheap casual singles for Commander or casual play. If you need more convincing that Conspiracy 2 is the best-ever set for reprints, take a look at these before and after prices, and remember: today is release day, so many of these prices will drop even further over the coming weeks. One note: the price look different than the ones we used to determine the EV for two reasons. For one thing, we aren't deducting the 15% for fees, but more importantly, we are using TCG Mid rather than TCG Market because it makes for a cleaner comparison. 

Conspiracy 2—Rares (Before and After)
Card Before Price, Eternal Masters Release Day, Original Printing (TCG Mid) Current Price (TCG Mid) Percent Change
Inquisition of Kozilek $15.60 $6.35 −59.3%
Burgeoning $26.70 $5.97 −77.7%
Birds of Paradise (10th Edition) $8.40 $4.47 −46.8%
Burning Wish $10.50 $4.32 −58.9%
Phyrexian Arena $7.90 $3.84 −51.4%
Horn of Greed $8.20 $2.93 −64.3%
Gratuitous Violence $5.80 $2.18 −62.5%
Desertion $5.40 $1.94 −64.1%
Followed Footsteps $3.90 $1.49 −61.8%
Kami of the Crescent Moon $3.90 $1.46 −62.6%
Exotic Orchard $4.00 $1.27 −68.3%
Pariah $2.80 $1.23 −56.1%
Dragonlair Spider $4.00 $1.12 −72%
Hallowed Burial $4.60 $1.00 −78.3%

These are huge decreases. Nearly every reprinted rare has lost at least half of its value, and many have lost three-quarters. Because of this, we are left in the weird situation where the current prices of the rares from Conspiracy 2 are not good from an EV perspective, but they are not good for a very good reason: we got a ton of extremely playable and powerful cards for a massive discount over their price from just a couple of months ago. 

Conspiracy 2: Uncommons, Commons, and Bulk

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Conspiracy 2—Common / Uncommon / Bulk
Card Rarity Value Multiplier EV Added
Ghostly Prison UNC $3.63 1.8 $6.53
Beast Within UNC $1.57 1.8 $2.83
Serum Visions UNC $1.39 1.8 $2.5
Explosive Vegetation UNC $0.59 1.8 $1.06
Juniper Order Ranger UNC $0.37 1.8 $0.67
BULK   $5 / Thousand   $15.99
Totals        
Total C / U / B Value Added $15.99      

One of the things that sets Conspiracy 2 apart from a typical unlimited supply set is the value in the uncommon slot. While there are only three chase uncommons and a couple of other semi-valuable ones, all in all, the uncommon / common / bulk slot from Conspiracy 2 is worth nearly three times that of a normal set. This is primarily because you open (on average) 1.8 copies of Ghostly Prison each box, but having staples like Beast Within and Serum Visions in the $1.50 range doesn't hurt either. Most sets do not have a single uncommon worth as much as any of these cards, but Conspiracy 2 has three! As a result, the commons, uncommons, and bulk from a typical box of Conspiracy 2 add almost exactly $16 to the expected value. 

Conspiracy 2: Foils

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Conspiracy 2—Foils
Rarity Average # per Box Average Value EV Added
Mythic One every six boxes (0.17 per box)

$45.90

$7.80
Rare One per box $7.84 $7.84
Uncommons Two per box $0.80 $1.60
Commons Three per box $0.20 $0.60
Totals      
Foil Value Added to Box $17.84    

Conspiracy 2 foils are insanely expensive at the moment, based mostly on the fact that the foils from the original Conspiracy were also way more expensive than you'd expect. I'm not sure whether this will hold over the long haul (although my guess would be that Conspiracy 2 foils will be significantly less expensive, since a lot more Conspiracy 2 will be opened), but for right now, the foil slot adds an insane $17.84 to the value of a box, mostly because the average value of a foil mythic is pushing $50, but also because the average foil rare is worth nearly $8. While there's a ton of variance in opening foil mythics, since they only show up about once every six boxes, the foil rare slot is more or less guaranteed value, since most boxes will have at least one. There's also a handful of $10 foil uncommons that are worth keeping an eye out for. 

I would lean towards selling any Conspiracy 2 foils as soon as possible, even if you plan on holding onto most of the cards you open, I just can't imagine these prices sticking for long with the massive amount of the set that will be opened, but over the short term, having extremely valuable foils will help to make up for the lacking value of the rare slot. 

Putting It All Together

Conspiracy 2—EV Summary
Rarity Average Price Value Added
Mythic $7.85 $35.40
Rare $1.02 $32.49
Commons / Uncommons / Bulk n/a $15.99
Foils n/a $17.84
TOTAL BOX EV $101.72  
PACK EV $2.82  

So, there you have it: if you crack open a box of Conspiracy: Take the Crown, you should expect to break just about even, pulling in about $102 in value. While this isn't exciting if your plan is to make money cracking boxes, considering how awesome the set looks, I'm pretty happy to be able to crack packs for (essentially) free. It's also worth noting that you sort of end up getting a free lotto ticket when you buy a box—if you happen to be the 1 in 6 who cracks a foil mythic, you're likely to come close to doubling your money. Of course, if you crack a ton of boxes, this will even out over the course of time, but if you're just buying a single box, your odds of ending up a big winner really aren't all that bad. 

Conclusion

Anyway, that's all for today! Have a blast playing and cracking Conspiracy: Take the Crown this weekend, and remember: if you want to see more sets like this, show Wizards some love not just on Twitter and Reddit, but also with your wallet! 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.


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