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The Expected Value of Double Masters and VIP Boosters


Double Masters is fully spoiled and officially being released on Friday, which means it's time to delve into the expected value of the set. This time around, our expected-value article is going to be a bit different than normal for two reasons. First, we've been tracking the expected value of the main set live on a public spreadsheet, with prices updated on a regular basis, so many of you might already have a good grasp on the basics of the set's value. (I'd encourage you to check out the sheet, if you haven't already, if you want to see all of the individual card prices that make up the expected value.) Secondly, Double Masters is a massive set with 40 mythics and 121 rares, and especially considering the spreadsheet already lists everything out, it's just not worth putting every individual price into this article. It would be redundant, and the spreadsheet is more effective anyway since it's easier to update in the future as prices change.

As such, rather than big lists of card prices and multipliers, today, we're going to focus on the nuts and bolts of the set's expected value, adding in stuff not covered on the sheet (like box toppers) and also breaking down the expected value of VIP Boosters, which are essentially their own product since they have a bunch of cards (and versions of cards) that aren't found in the main Double Masters set. Let's start with the expected value of Double Masters proper, and then we'll jump into VIP boosters!

The Expected Value of Double Masters

Double Masters has been a weird set as far as pricing, with the cost of cards varying a lot depending on where you look. For the expected-value article (and also the spreadsheet), the pricing is a mixture of TCG Market and TCG Low, with the goal being to get the most realistic, lowest price of each card. All things considered, it's pretty unlikely that most cards in Double Masters will shoot up in price in the near future as the set is being opened and supply is entering the market. Instead, many of the cards in the set may continue to drop in price in the coming weeks and months before eventually starting to increase again as supply runs dry. Because of this, aiming low in terms of prices should give us the most realistic current price and also help to head off some of the set's future price drops. 

To determine the expected value of a booster box of Double Masters, the first thing we need to look at is what actually comes in a box. Double Masters is unique since every pack offers two rares (potentially upgraded to mythics) and two foils, along with eight commons and three uncommons as well as—assuming you buy a sealed box—two non-foil box toppers. Altogether, this means the average box of Double Masters should have roughly six mythics, 42 rares, 72 uncommons, and 192 commons. While foil distribution is a bit tricky, if we assume it is roughly the same as non-foils, the average box would also offer less than one foil mythic (likely about 0.8 per box), just over five foil rares, about 10 foil uncommons, and 26 foil commons. 

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

While prices are changing all the time, the average value of a mythic from Double Masters is currently $22.38. With six showing up in a typical box, this would add about $134 to the expected value. Meanwhile, the average rare is worth $3.17. (Although be warned: the median value is only $1.25, so this average value is driven up by a small number of expensive rares, and many individual packs of Double Masters will hold two bulk-level rares.) With 42 rares in the typical box, this adds another $133 to the expected value of a box, which means the rares and mythics alone currently add a total of $267 to the value of a Double Masters booster box. 

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As far as lower-rarity cards, there are a handful of semi-valuable commons (led by the Tron lands and Expedition Map in the $2 range) and some solid uncommons, including Manamorphose, Lightning Greaves, Oubliette, and Path to Exile. While most of the lower-rarity cards in Double Masters are bulk, the good ones do add quite a bit to the expected value of a box. Altogether, the chances of opening Tron lands, Manamorphose, and the other commons and uncommons worth more than $1 add another $41 to the expected value of a box, bringing our running EV total up to $308. 

Masters sets foils are a bit weird, and this will likely be double true of Double Masters thanks to VIP booster, which will greatly increase the supply of foils in the set. My guess is that, with a few exceptions, foils from Double Masters will only be worth slightly more (and in some cases no more) than their non-foil counterparts, but the exceptions do matter. A safe bet is that a foil will be worth about 1.5 times its non-foil printing, which would put the average value of a foil mythic at $33.57 and the average value of a foil rare at $4.76. Considering we should get about 0.8 foil mythics per Double Masters box and about 5.5 foil rares per Double Masters box, this would mean the upper-rarity foils would add another $53 to the expected value of a box, bringing the EV up from $308 to $361. 

As for lower-rarity foils, I think the best plan is to count them as valueless, although technically this isn't true. The problem with foil commons and uncommons is that VIP boosters are loaded with them (with a total of 17 foil commons and uncommons in each pack). Because of this, it seems possible that foil printings of commons and uncommons from Double Masters may actually end up being worth less (or at best, not more) than their normal non-foil printing. If you open a sweet foil uncommon and it ends up being worth some money, treat it as a bonus bit of value!

Taken as a whole, this would give us a non-box-topper Double Masters box expected value of $361, which works out to almost exactly $15 per pack in value. If you're buying loose packs (and not getting box toppers), then Double Masters should roughly break even at current prices, although because of the extremely high variance of the rares in the set, most packs will offer less value than the $15-ish you paid for the pack.

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On the other hand, if you're buying a box of Double Masters, you'll also be rewarded with two non-foil box toppers (which have their own page on the spreadsheet). Box toppers in Double Masters have two rarities—rare and mythic—with rares showing up twice as often as mythics. Somewhat counterintuitively, being non-foil isn't necessarily a bad thing, especially for rare box toppers, which are actually more valuable in non-foil than in foil. Right now, the average non-foil rare box topper is worth $36.40, while the average non-foil mythic box topper is $78.10. If you mash these two numbers together and account for the rarity difference, the average value of opening a single box topper in a Double Masters box is $49.16, but since we get two box toppers with each box, box toppers actually add a massive $98.34 to the expected value of a Double Masters box. This means if you buy a sealed box of Double Masters, the expected value will climb all the way up from $361 to $459 (on average).

To wrap things up, these numbers mean two things. First, sealed boxes of Double Masters offer great value, even at over $300 a box. On average, you'll come out more than $100 ahead per box, although the variance will be high, which makes opening a box a major gamble. Second, buying random packs of Double Masters isn't great value. A huge chunk of the value of Double Masters comes from the box toppers, so if you're thinking of buying the set, splurge on a box (and cross your fingers that you run well) rather than buying random packs. Most single packs of Double Masters will be losers, but with almost $100 of box-topper value to back up the packs, many boxes of Double Masters will offer more value than you paid for the box itself.

VIP Boosters

I'm not sure there has ever been a product that has caused more controversy than Double Masters VIP boosters have. The 33-card mostly foil packs cost right around $100, which is by far the most a single in-print booster pack has ever cost. Of course, the cost of the pack by itself doesn't really mean anything, as far as expected value is concerned. A pack could cost a million dollars and have a positive expected value if it contained enough valuable cards, and a pack can (and has) cost $4 and have a horrible expected value, causing you to lose a bunch of money (on average) with every pack you open. 

To break down the expected value of VIP booster, we need to walk step-by-step through the booster's contents and figure out how much value each of the components offers. As a refresher, here is what you'll get in a VIP booster:

  • Ten non-foil full-art basic lands (from Battle for Zendikar and Unhinged)
  • Two foil full-art basic lands (also from Battle for Zendikar and / or Unhinged)
  • Nine foil commons
  • Eight foil uncommons
  • Two foil rares or mythics
  • Two foil box toppers
  • (Also, two double-sided tokens as a bonus)

The Lands

First off, we get 10 non-foil full-art lands with art from either Battle for Zendikar or Unhinged. The Battle for Zendikar lands are more or less worthless, selling for somewhere between $0.25 and $0.50, but I expect that you'll have a hard time getting much more than $0.10 on buylist once Double Masters floods the market with supply (although they might have some value as trade throw-ins). Let's be generous and say that getting an average of five Battle for Zendikar art full-art lands might add about $1 to the expected value of a VIP booster.

Meanwhile, the Unhinged art lands fare better, coming at at between $0.75 and $1 each at the moment, although again, I'm not sure how well this price will hold up as the set is opened. Unhinged was an extremely low-supply set, which (combined with classic art) is the main reason the originals sell for somewhere in the neighborhood of $5 to $8 a piece. The same will not be true of the Double Masters reprints, especially since you'll get an average of five of the Unhinged basic arts in every VIP booster. My guess is that the prices will keep trending down, but since we're working with current prices, let's say that getting five non-foil Unhinged art basics will add roughly $4 to the value of a VIP booster, bringing the total non-foil land value to $1. 

The breakdown for the two foil lands is basically the same as the non-foils. The Battle for Zendikar art isn't really worth much, at about $5 each, while the Unhinged art foils are currently somewhere between $3–5. Assuming the distributions of Unhinged and Battle for Zendikar full-art lands are the same, the most common VIP booster will have one of each land, adding about $4.50 to the expected value of a booster. Adding this all together, at current prices, the 12 full-art lands add roughly $8.50 to the expected value of a Double Masters booster pack.

Foil Commons and Uncommons

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

All in all, there are 91 commons in Double Masters, and seven are currently worth more than $1 in foil, led by Urza's Power Plant, Urza's Tower, and Urza's Mine in the $5 range, along with Chromatic Star, Expedition Map, Ancient Stirrings, and Everflowing Chalice all being worth just over $1. The good news is that the value of the Tron lands specifically does drive up the average value of a foil common a little bit, to about $0.30, which means the nine foil commons add about $2.70 to the expected value of a VIP booster. The bad news is that a huge majority of the foil commons in Double Masters are essentially just bulk foils. You'll only open a valuable Tron land a bit less than once in every three VIP boosters, which means that even though foil commons add $4.50 to the expected value of a VIP booster on average, this is mostly because of the 29% of the time when you'll open a foil Tron land. The other 71% of the time, you'll likely end up with a pile of foil draft chaff from your foil common slot.

Meanwhile, the uncommon foils from Double Masters are, for the most part, already near their non-foil prices, with a few exceptions like Basalt Monolith, Oubliette (as first-time foils), and Lightning Greaves (as a Commander ultra-staple). As we talked about a few minutes ago, because of the massive supply of Double Masters foils, it's going to be extremely hard for these cards to maintain any meaningful amount of value over the short term, and it's possible that foils will end up cheaper (or at least as cheap) as their non-foil counterparts. That said, at current prices, the average foil uncommon is worth somewhere around $0.65, which means opening eight in a VIP booster adds roughly $5 to the pack's expected value.

Foil Rares / Mythics

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Next up, we have our two guaranteed foil rares or mythics. As we discussed before, assuming that foils are worth about 1.5 times their non-foil printing, the current average value of a foil rare is $4.76, while the average value of a foil mythic is $33.57. When we account for the fact that about one in eight rares are upgraded to mythics, this would mean that the average value of a single rare / mythic in a Double Masters booster would be $8.98, and with two rares / mythics in each pack, this would add $17.96 to the expected value of a VIP booster.

Foil Box Toppers

Finally, we have the main event: box toppers. Once again, box toppers in Double Masters (and VIP boosters) come in two rarities: rare and mythic, with rares showing up twice as often as mythics. All of the VIP booster box toppers are also foil, which sets them apart from the box toppers that come with a Double Masters booster box, which are all non-foil. While prices are still adjusting, right now, the average value of a rare box topper is $30.60. Meanwhile, the average value of a foil mythic box topper is $86.95, both at TCG Low pricing.  

Assuming distribution works the way we think it does, 4 / 9 VIP boosters will give you two rares, 4 / 9 will give you one mythic and one rare, and 1 / 9 will give you two mythics. At current prices, this means a "bad" VIP booster (double rare) will give you $60.60 in box-topper value, a good (one rare one mythic) VIP booster will yield $117.55 in box-topper value, and a great VIP booster (double mythic) will offer $173.90 in box-topper value.  

Wizards announced yesterday that distribution of box toppers doesn't work they way we thought, confirming that it is impossible to get a double mythic box topper pack. This has zero effect on the expected value of a VIP booster - rares and mythics still show up at the same rate, with rares being twice as common as mythics - but the way box toppers show up in packs is different. Rather than 1/9 packs having two mythics, 4/9 having rare/mythic and 4/9 having rare/rare, we now know that the actual distribution is that 6/9 packs will be mythic/rare and 3/9 will be rare/rare. The bad news is this means it is now impossible to open the god pack with two extremely expensive mythic box toppers and end up with $800 in value from your $100 VIP booster. The good news is this does help reduce the variance, greatly increasing your odds of opening a single mythic in any individual VIP booster pack. While this probably isn't the place to complain, there were several instances of Wizards publishing incomplete or, in some cases, flat out wrong information in regards to box toppers, which is troubling since players might have preordered $100 booster packs on the basis of missing or untrue information. 

If we mash these numbers together and account for the fact that rares will show up twice as often as mythics will, the average value of a foil box topper is $49.19. Since there are two box toppers in each pack, the box topper slots add a total of $98.38 value to a VIP booster, which by themselves is about the same as the cost of a VIP booster pack. While this sounds good (and is good from an EV perspective), keep in mind that 33% of VIP boosters will be double-rare box-topper packs. If you get two rares, the average value is just $61.20, and if you run poorly, it is possible to get as little as $34 for both of your box toppers combined (if you get something like Crop Rotation and Phyrexian Metamorph). Even if you open the two best rare box toppers (Cyclonic Rift and Thoughtseize), you'll only end up with $112 in value, so the expected value is clearly being driven up by the mythics (especially the $385 Force of Will). 

Adding this all together, here's what we have for the expected value of a VIP booster:

  • Lands: $8.50
  • Foil commons / uncommons: $7.70
  • Foil rares / mythics: $17.96
  • Foil box toppers: $98.38
  • Total: $132.54

In many ways, VIP boosters are emblematic of Double Masters proper. The expected value is solid. You can get VIP boosters for as low as $95 on Amazon, which will offer almost $40 in excess value for the average VIP booster. Spending $95 to make $132, on average, seems like a great deal, but there is a catch. Much like Double Masters proper, VIP boosters have a lot of variance (although slightly less than we thought thanks to yesterday's announcement of no double mythic box topper packs). You could very easily spend $100 and end up with less than $50 in value. If you're spending thousands of dollars on VIP boosters and opening cases of them, the variance should even itself out, but for the average player opening one or two VIP boosters, it is very much a gamble since a big portion of a VIP booster's value is concentrated in high-value box toppers and the mythic rarity, and you're not guaranteed to open a mythic or a good box topper in any individual VIP booster, even with two shots at each in every pack. 

Summary

In summary, the expected value of both Double Masters itself and Double Masters VIP boosters is solid. On average, you'll open significantly more in value than you spend on a Double Masters box or VIP booster (don't by loose Double Masters packs—on average, those will just barely break even, and most packs will lose value). However, Double Masters boxes and VIP boosters are extremely high variance, which means the average player is better off buying the newly cheap singles they need to play formats like Commander, Modern, Pioneer, and Legacy than risking a loss on a Double Masters box or a VIP booster pack. If you have enough money to spend to account for the variance, you will eventually come out ahead when opening Double Masters and / or VIP boosters, but any individual box or VIP booster is basically a scratch-off ticket. There's potential to win big, but many tickets will be losers. 

Conclusion

Anyway, that's all for today. Are you buying a Double Masters box? Cracking VIP boosters? Buying singles? Let me know in the comments! 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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