Browse > Home / Strategy / Articles / The Expected Value of Core Set 2019

The Expected Value of Core Set 2019

It's prerelease weekend for Core Set 2019, not only marking the release of the newest Magic set but also the return of the core set series. As such, it's time for us to take our traditional dive into the numbers and break down the expected value of the set. In most ways, Core Set 2019 is pretty straightforward, with no Masterpieces or special card slots to complicate our expected-value breakdown, although thanks to the combination of no rare land cycle and the fact that several of the most expensive cards in the set are reprints, it will be interesting to see just how much value is in the set. Normally, sets with high expected value have not just rare land cycle, but a valuable rare land cycle, driving up the value of the rare slot. Can Core Set 2019 overcome this disadvantage and post solid numbers? Let's find out!

Like usual, one important warning before digging into the numbers: there are a lot of different reasons why people buy booster boxes. For some people, it's tradition; for others, they enjoy the lottery-like thrill of hoping to open a high-value foil mythic. Others pick up boxes to grow their collection (although this is usually an inefficient way of going about it) or to draft with their friends (highly recommended; drafting is a blast). All of these, and 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 take into account 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?

At this point, most of you probably know how this works, but for those of you who don't, here's a quick breakdown. Expected value basically refers to the amount of value (in US dollars) you can expect to open, on average, from a booster box. We calculate the odds of opening each individual card in a box (which are the multipliers you'll see throughout the article), which in turn allows us to calculate how much value the potential of opening each card adds to a booster box. Then, we add everything together, which gives us the total expected value for the box.

TCGplayer Market Pricing

Most EV calculations use retail 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 I sell my 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 price of 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.

Of course, not everyone is interested in selling cards, so we'll also talk about the expected value without taking into account fees and shipping, although here, it's worth mentioning once again that if your goal is to build a Standard collection, it's usually smarter (from a financial perspective) to wait a month or two for prices to decrease as supply enters the market and then just purchase singles rather than buying a box. While opening booster boxes is a ton of fun and sealed product is essentially for drafting, if your goal is to put together a specific Standard deck or simply grow your collection, there is much less variance if you simply buy the individual cards you need rather than hoping to beat the odds and open them from a booster box.

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 or traded away for any meaningful amount of value. 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 Nicol Bolas, the Ravager are somewhere around 1 in 3,500 packs; however, every box should contain some number of foils (typically a handful of commons, a couple of uncommons, and one-ish rare), and these lower-rarity foils do represent some amount of guaranteed value.
  4. These prices won't be good for long. Remember: the idea is to determine if Core Set 2019 is worth opening on release weekend (which happens to kick off next Friday, although you can pick up boxes this weekend from your local game store). 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 that 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.
  5. 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 to take the next step and actually trade away the cards, list them on eBay / TCGplayer, or sell them to a buylist.
  6. 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 will smooth out these outliers.

Core Set 2019 Notes

As I mentioned in the intro, Core Set 2019 is a relatively straightforward set as far as calculating expected value. While we do have one additional mythic (Nicol Bolas, the Ravager gives us a total of 16 in the set rather than 15) and there are a bunch of random Planeswalker Deck cards that are technically part of Core Set 2019 (but not found in booster boxes, so they don't count toward our expected value calculation), there's one huge exception: the Buy-a-Box Promo Nexus of Fate. If you haven't been keeping up on the drama, the only way to get a copy of Nexus of Fate is to pick up a booster box early (while supplies last) at your local game store. Right now, Nexus of Fate is selling regularly on eBay for somewhere between $25 and $30, which is a huge bonus for picking up a Core Set 2019 box early. While we won't include Nexus of Fate in our expected-value calculation (since not everyone will get a copy), if you are getting a copy of the Buy-a-Box Promo along with your box, it's pretty safe to add at somewhere between $20 and $25 to the total expected value of the box.

Core Set 2019: Mythics

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

Core Set 2019—Mythics
Card Value Multiplier EV Added
Nicol Bolas, the Ravager $26.27 0.28 $7.36
Tezzeret, Artifice Master $19.55 0.28 $5.48
Crucible of Worlds $17.18 0.28 $4.81
Resplendent Angel $15.50 0.28 $4.34
Scapeshift $12.15 0.28 $3.40
Ajani, Adversary of Tyrants $10.12 0.28 $2.83
Sarkhan, Fireblood $10.12 0.28 $2.83
Liliana, Untouched by Death $8.29 0.28 $2.32
Chromium, the Mutable $8.00 0.28 $2.24
Vivien Reid $7.17 0.28 $2.00
Omniscience $6.92 0.28 $1.93
Arcades, the Strategist $7.02 0.28 $1.96
Vaevictis Asmadi, the Dire $2.55 0.28 $0.71
Palladia-Mors, the Ruiner $2.55 0.28 $0.71
Bone Dragon $2.00 0.28 $0.56
Apex of Power $1.18 0.28 $0.33
Average Mythic Value $9.78    
Total Value Added to Box $43.48    

Let's start with the good news about the value of the mythics in Core Set 2019: with an average value of almost $10, they are quite literally off the charts. In fact, the average value of a mythic from Core Set 2019 is the highest we've had in the time that I've been writing expected-value articles (back to Return to Ravnica). Currently, seven of the 16 mythics in the set (44%) are worth more than $10, and only four of the 16 (25%) are worth less than the price of a pack. Plus, even the bad mythics (perhaps outside of Apex of Power) aren't really that bad, with the Elder Dragons being worth a couple of bucks (and being relevant for Commander) and Bone Dragon being a sleeper for post-rotation Standard, assuming that Golgari has some sweet graveyard synergies in Guilds of Ravnica. In the end, there's nothing to complain about with the mythics of Core Set 2019: there are Modern-playable reprints, potential Standard staples, and Commander goodies, all with off-the-charts price tags. 

Of course, there is some bad news here: considering that there's no rare land cycle in Core Set 2019, the mythics should be valuable because there likely won't be as many high-value rares to slop up value. As a result, just having the best mythic value in years doesn't necessarily guarantee that Core Set 2019 will have a solid overall expected value if the no-land-cycle rares aren't able to hold their weight. This being said, with very few exceptions, you'll never really be unhappy to see a mythic staring back at you when you crack a pack of Core Set 2019.

Core Set 2019: Rares

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

Core Set 2019—Rares
Card Value Multiplier EV Added
Death Baron $3.95 0.6 $2.37
Alpine Moon $2.82 0.6 $1.69
Supreme Phantom $2.24 0.6 $1.34
Runic Armasaur $2.24 0.6 $1.34
Leonin Warleader $2.12 0.6 $1.27
Cleansing Nova $1.90 0.6 $1.14
Remorseful Cleric $1.90 0.6 $1.14
Graveyard Marshal $1.89 0.6 $1.13
Elvish Clancaller $1.82 0.6 $1.09
Goreclaw, Terror of Qal Sisma $1.74 0.6 $1.04

Infernal Reckoning

$1.61 0.6 $0.96
Lathliss, Dragon Queen $1.61 0.6 $0.96
Sai, Master Thopterist $1.43 0.6 $0.86
Isareth the Awakener $1.43 0.6 $0.86
Gigantosaurus $1.43 0.6 $0.86
Isolate $1.43 0.6 $0.86
Amulet of Safekeeping $1.32 0.6 $0.79
Dark-Dweller Oracle $1.18 0.6 $0.71
Goblin Trashmaster $1.18 0.6 $0.71
Detection Tower $1.12 0.6 $0.67
Demon of Catastrophes $1.12 0.6 $0.67
22 Bulk Rares $0.10 0.6*22 $1.32
10 Semi-Bulk Rares $0.25 0.6*10 $1.50
Average Rare Value $0.80    
Total Value Added $25.06    

The rare slot in Core Set 2019 is as bad as the mythic slot is good, with the average value being a paltry $0.80. While it might not be fair to compare the weak rares of Core Set 2019 with the strong rares of Dominaria, this means that the average value of a rare from Core Set 2019 is more than 32% less than a rare from Dominaria during prerelease weekend. Of course, as we've been talking about throughout the article, this is—at least in part—a side effect of not having a rare dual land cycle, which typically helps to up the value of the rare slot in a set. However, the problems with the rare slot in Core Set 2019 go much deeper: there simply aren't a lot of playable (and thereby valuable) cards to be found, which leads to very few rares that are worth more than a pack and an extremely high bulk-rare percentage. 

Just how bad are the rares of Core Set 2019? Let's say you buy a box for $100, making the cost of a booster $2.78. Even at this extremely generous booster cost (considering that if you buy a single pack, it's likely to be $3–$4), only two rares from Core Set 2019—Death Baron and Alpine Moon (just barely)—are worth more than the price of the booster. This means that, assuming you don't get lucky and open a mythic, only 3.8% of your Core Set 2019 booster packs will have positive value. On the other hand, a massive 32 rares from Core Set 2019 fall into the bulk or semi-bulk categories, which means just over 60% of your non-mythic Core Set 2019 booster packs will be complete busts, with a throwaway bulk rare. While the high price of the mythics helps to ease the pain, the breakdown of the value in Core Set 2019 means that the set is going to be extremely high variance. If you run below the average in terms of mythics, your box will be horrible—there simply isn't enough value in the rare slot to overcome bad running with mythics.

Core Set 2019—Uncommons / Commons / Bulk

$ 0.00 $ 0.00

Core Set 2019—C / U / B
Card Rarity Value Multiplier EV Added
Reliquary Tower UNC $0.74 1.35 $1.01
Bulk C / U   $5 / thousand   $2.40
Total C / U / B Value Added $3.41      

*Editor's Note: Llanowar Elves was originally included in the EV calculation, but it's actually from the Vivian Planeswalker deck and not found in Core Set 2019 boosters. The EV has been edited to reflect this change.*

Not much to see here. Reliquary Tower is the only uncommon of note, and it's less than a dollar at this point thanks to countless reprintings.. As such, the common and uncommon slots in Core Set 2019 are essentially worthless, outside of just adding a bunch of bulk cards to your collection. In the end, they add $3.41 to the value of the box (which is roughly half the value of the average set), with most of the value of the commons being from $2.40 worth of bulk cards.

Core Set 2019—Foils


Rarity Average # per Box Average Value EV Added
Mythics One every six boxes (0.17 per box) $30.06 $5.11
Rares One per box $3.95 $3.95
Uncommons Two per box $1.00 $2.00
Commons Three per box $0.10 $0.30
Foil Value Added to Box $11.36    

While the foil mythic value is fine, for the rest of the rarities, even the foils come in a bit below average in terms of value, which leads to a somewhat lacking total foil value of $11.36. As far as lower-rarity cards, the big winners are Reclamation Sage and Reliquary Tower (at $10 and $8, respectively), followed by several just-above-bulk cards in the $2 range. It's also worth keeping an eye out for random hate cards in the rare slot, thanks to potential Modern-playable cards like Amulet of Safekeeping and Alpine Moon being among the most valuable rare foils from the set in the $15 range. 

Putting It All Together

Core Set 2019—EV Summary
Rarity Average Price Number Value Added
16 $43.48
Rare $0.80 53 $25.06
Commons / Uncommons / Bulk     $3.41
Foils   6 (per box) $11.36
TOTAL BOX EV $83.31    
PACK EV $2.31    

So, there you have it: if you crack a box of Core Set 2019, you should expect to open about $83 in value, mostly thanks to the solid mythic slot, which makes up more than half of the expected value by itself. This is a pretty underwhelming number, although it does suggests that, unlike Dominaria (which was overvalued, from an expected-value perspective, for quite a while), Core Set 2019 is unlikely to lose a ton of value in coming months, since prices are already relatively low. However, as we talked about in the intro, there are a handful of complicating factors, so let's take a look at the expected value of Core Set 2019 from a few different perspectives.

  • Opening Boxes "for Value": This is a pretty bad plan. With the expected value already low and prices likely to tick down a bit more, even if you can get a great deal on boxes and sell the cards as quickly as possible (to maximize your profits before prices drop), it's unlikely that you'll be able to crack enough valuable cards to sell your opens for a profit. Your best case is to about break even in the long run, if you can get boxes near wholesale prices, and if your goal is to make money, breaking even simply isn't worth the work.
  • Opening Boxes for Your Collection: Here, things look a bit better. Remember: the $83 expected-value number is deducing 15% to account for fees and shipping. If we drop this deduction, the expected value increases to $96, which is roughly the breakeven point. So, if you just want to add a bunch of random cards to your collection, you should roughly get your money's worth (at current prices) from a box of Core Set 2019, although because of variance (you likely won't open the cards that you want, at least not in multiples), it's still more efficient to just buy the singles you need for your decks than to crack a box. Basically, $96 of random Core Set 2019 cards is worth less than $96 in singles to most players because you know you'll use the singles in your deck, while some percentage of your box opening will probably go to waste.
  • Buying a Box Early from Your LGS: There is one situation where buying a box of Core Set 2019 makes a ton of sense: if you can get a box early from your local game store to take advantage of the $25 Nexus of Fate Buy-a-Box Promo. If you add $25 to the expected value of a Core Set 2019 box, the value of a box increases to about $110, even with the 15% discount, and if you toss out the discount, it jumps to a very respectable $121, which is enough value that you're likely to come out ahead compared to buying singles. This is especially true if you're going to buy a copy of Nexus of Fate anyway, since that basically amounts to a hard $25 off the cost of your box. As such, if you are thinking about cracking some Core Set 2019 boxes, look to take advantage of the Buy-a-Box Promo. While having unique promos is still a scary proposition, while they are around, you might as well take advantage of the discount they offer and use Nexus of Fate to get a good deal on your box (while also supporting your local game store!)


All in all, Core Set 2019 looks like a fun set with solid reprints and potential Standard staples, along with some Commander all-stars. Unfortunately, due to the lack of value in the rare and uncommon slots, this isn't enough to save the set from a below-average expected value. I'll probably still be cracking a box or two because it's so much fun, but I'll do so knowing that I'll most likely lose some value along the way. 

Anyway, that's all for today. Are you planning on cracking a box of Core Set 2019? Will you be taking advantage of the Buy-a-Box Promo from your local game store? Let me know in the comments! As always, leave your thoughts, ideas, opinions, and suggestions, and you can reach me on Twitter @SaffronOlive or at

More on MTGGoldfish ...

Image for Vintage 101: A Saga By Any Other Name vintage 101
Vintage 101: A Saga By Any Other Name

Joe Dyer dives into some spoiler season with Modern Horizons 2!

May 13 | by Joe Dyer
Image for Brawling with Jadzi (Historic Brawl) video
Brawling with Jadzi (Historic Brawl)

SaffronOlive really wants the rest of the Japanese Mystic Invocation archive card styles on Magic Arena, which means it's time for some Brawl! What cool things can the Jadzi deck he threw together in 10 minutes do? Let's find out!

May 13 | by SaffronOlive
Image for Against the Odds: Oops, All Fynns (Standard) against the odds
Against the Odds: Oops, All Fynns (Standard)

Is it possible to win a game in Standard by turning all of our creatures into Fynn, the Fangbearer with Echoing Equation? Let's give it a shot and find out!

May 12 | by SaffronOlive
Image for Single Scoop: Jeskai Control (Historic, Magic Arena) single scoop
Single Scoop: Jeskai Control (Historic, Magic Arena)

Its been awhile since we've had a good Jeskai Control deck but it looks like HIstoric will scratch that itch!

May 11 | by TheAsianAvenger

Layout Footer

Never miss important MTG news again!

All emails include an unsubscribe link. You may opt-out at any time. See our privacy policy.

Follow Us

  • Facebook
  • Twitter
  • Twitch
  • Instagram
  • Tumblr
  • RSS
  • Email
  • Discord
  • YouTube

Price Preference

Default Price Switcher