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The Expected Value of Core Set 2021


Core Set 2021 is officially being released this week in paper, and it's already been out for a few days on Magic Online, which means its time to figure out just how much value is in the set! As you might know, I've been writing expected-value articles for a long time now, but as the world of Magic changes with an increasing focus on Arena, it's time for our expected-value article to change as well. 

Traditionally, I've gone to great lengths to list out every card in the set, along with its price and various deductions for shipping and fees, not because all of that is necessary to calculate the expected value of a set but because it offers an inside look at the math that goes into calculating expected value. However, I'm not really sure how much value that adds to the article in 2020, when prices are pretty well known and where you can see the price of the entire set with a click of a button. As such, today, we're going to have a shorter, more focused expected-value article, keeping the same methodology but not listing out every card in the set. Basically, our goal is to get to the meat of the article: how much value you should expect to open in a box, in a more efficient and faster manner. 

Price-wise, we'll still be using TCG Market prices, which reflect how much cards have sold for (rather than the price that people are asking), but with a twist: rather than deducting 15% for fees and shipping (which is mostly only relevant to players trying to sell the cards they open), we'll just be using the normal TCG Market prices. But at the end of the article, when we wrap everything up, we'll still post the 15% EV deduction as well for the sake of being able to make apples-to-apples comparisons to past sets. Anyway, without any further ramblings, let's break down the expected value of Core Set 2021!

Mythics

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

  • Total Mythics: 15
  • Highest Value Mythic: Teferi, Master of Time ($46.31)
  • Lowest Value Mythic: Baneslayer Angel ($3.16)
  • Number of Bulk Mythics: 0
  • Percent of Mythics Worth More Than the Cost of a Pack: 93.3% (14 of 15)
  • Percent of Mythics Worth More Than $10: 33.3% (5 of 15)
  • Median Mythic Value: $9.45
  • Average Mythic Value: $12.96
  • Expected Value That Mythics Add to a Box: $58.35

The mythic slot of Core Set 2021 is extremely valuable. In fact, the average mythic value is the highest of any set in years. Why are the mythics from Core Set 2021 so valuable? There's actually a pretty long list of reasons. First, the rares of Core Set 2021 aren't all that valuable, which leaves more room for value at the mythic rarity. Second, there are two extremely expensive reprints at mythic in the set, in Ugin, the Spirit Dragon and Grim Tutor. Third, [[Teferi, Master of Time] is already close to $50, which is much higher than the top mythic in most sets. Fourth, the set's bulk mythic rate is non-existent; the worst mythic in the set is former best card in Standard Baneslayer Angel, and Baneslayer Angel is a really solid "worst" mythic, both in terms of value and playability. The end result is a mythic slot that adds nearly $60 of value to a Core Set 2021 box, which is great. There's literally nothing to complain about in regards to the mythics from the set.

Rares

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

  • Total Rares: 53
  • Highest Value Rare: Azusa, Lost but Seeking ($9.78)
  • Lowest Value Rare: Pursued Whale (bulk)
  • Number of Bulk Rares: 41
  • Percent of Rares Worth More Than the Cost of a Pack: 11.3% (six of 53)
  • Percent of Rares Worth More Than $10: 0
  • Median Rare Value: $0.58
  • Average RareValue: $1.02
  • Expected Value That Rare Add to a Box: $32.27

The rares of Core Set 2021 are essentially the opposite of the mythics. The average value of a rare from the set is only $1.02, and even that number is driven up by a very small number of good rares, considering the median value is only $0.58. Only six rares from the entire set are worth more than the pack they come from, and there really aren't any super-chase rares (while a $10 Azusa, Lost but Seeking is a nice open, we've seen some $20+ rares in past sets). While the rare slot does technically add $32.27 to the value of a booster box, this number is somewhat deceiving since most of this value will come from opening a bunch of $1.00 rares, which will likely be hard to sell or trade for full value, and many won't even be all that helpful for building competitive Standard decks. 

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

Perhaps the biggest issue with the rare value in Core Set 2021 is the land cycle. In general, the dual-land cycle is the most valuable group of rares in a Standard-legal set, and having a great cycle (like shock lands or fetch lands) tends to drive up the expected value of a box. Core Set 2021, with yet another reprinting of the scry lands, has the least valuable rare land cycle I've seen in all the years I've been writing expected value articles, with the scry lands being literal bulk rares. While much has been made about how bad the reprinting is for Magic Arena, looking at the prices and expected value of Core Set 2021, another run of scry lands so close to their last reprinting isn't all that exciting for paper players either.

Notable Lower-Rarity Cards

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

As far as commons and uncommons, there really isn't much to see in Core Set 2021. Eliminate is in the $1 range, while Miscast, Garruk's Uprising, and Cultivate are all around $0.50. On average, you'll open 1.35 copies of each uncommon in a box, which would mean the four good uncommons in the set add $3.38 to the value of a box. Toss in another $2.50 for all of the other bulk cards in the box, and the lower-rarity cards from the set add a total of $5.88 to the expected value.

Foils

Core Set 2021—Foils
Rarity Average # per Box Average Value EV Added
Mythics One every three boxes (0.33 per box) $28.20 $9.30
Rares Two per box $3.94 $7.88
Uncommons Two per box $0.50 $1.00
Commons Six per box $0.10 $0.50
Totals
Foil Value Added to Box $18.78

The foils from Core Set 2021 follow the same patterns as the normal non-foil printings. The mythics from the set are worth a bit more than average, while the rares from the set are worth a bit less. If you're cracking a box, be on the lookout for Village Rites and any of the uncommon Shrines. While none of these cards is worth a ton, they are each worth a few dollars, which can be a nice little bonus.

EV Summary

EV Summary
Rarity Average Price Number Value Added
Mythics
$8.69
15 $58.35
Rares $0.91 53 $32.27
Commons / Uncommons / Basics / Bulk $5.88
Foils 12 (per box) $18.78
TOTAL BOX EV $115.28
PACK EV $3.20

Adding everything up, at TCG Market prices, the expected value of a box of Core Set 2021 comes in at $115.28, which seems like a pretty decent number, considering that a box usually costs somewhere around $100. However, it is important to point out that if we deduct 15% for fees and shipping like we have with past expected value articles, the number drops to $98, which is basically in line with most sets. While you should roughly break even when opening Core Set 2021 over the long term, over the short term, there is a lot of variance in the set. 

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

Because the rare slot of Core Set 2021 is underwhelming from a value perspective, getting a good box will mostly depend on getting good mythics. While it is true that there aren't many (or arguably even any) truly bad mythics in the set, there are three really, really good (and valuable) mythics in Teferi, Master of Time, Ugin, the Spirit Dragon, and Grim Tutor that drive up the expected value of the set by themselves. Take Teferi, Master of Time, for example. The possibility of opening a copy adds over $14 to the expected value of a Core Set 2021 box, while Ugin, the Spirit Dragon and Grim Tutor add $9.30 and $7.30, respectively. Together, these cards account for more than $30 of the set's expected value—more than 1/4 of the value of the entire set. Without valuable rares or a good land cycle to back up the mythics, the risk you take when you crack a Core Set 2021 box is that you'll whiff on the three big mythics, which would leave you with a box that yields far less value than you paid for the box. Over the course of time, if you were opening hundreds of boxes, this variance would smooth out, and you would at least break even (and possibly come out ahead a little). But there is no guarantee with the small sample size of just a single box, and Core Set 2021 is a higher-variance set than most thanks to the weak rares. 

It's also worth mentioning that our calculation didn't take into account the possibility of opening some of the promo alt-border cards that show up in the set. This is in part because we don't have good pricing information on these cards yet and in part because they are pretty rare. While the chance of opening these cards does boost the expected value of the box to some extent, at this point, it's impossible to say by how much. As such, if you open a full-art Ugin, the Spirit Dragon or one of the Teferi, Master of Times with alt-art, think of it as a nice bonus—a free lottery ticket you won for purchasing a box.

Basically, with Core Set 2021, the total expected value number is fine. Just be warned that it is a high-variance set and that it's very possible to spend $100 on a box, miss on the top-end mythics, and only get back a bit more than half of what you paid in value.

Conclusion

Anyway, that's all for today. What did you think of this new, more concise version of the expected-value article? Did the long charts with all the numbers add any value? Let me know in the comments. Are you going to snag a box of Core Set 2021? Have you already cracked some packs and hit something amazing? Let me know about that as well. As always, leave your thoughts, ideas, opinions, and suggestions, and you can reach me on Twitter @SaffronOlive or at SaffronOlive@MTGGoldfish.com.


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