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The Expected Value of Eternal Masters


As you probably know by now, every time a new set is released, we publish an expected value article breaking down just how much value you can expect to open if you decide to crack a box. One of the reasons I do this is because the rule of thumb that you should never open a box doesn't always hold true. There are situations where cracking a box is a smart financial move or, at the very least, a fun experience that isn't going to lose you a ton of value. Of course, other times, cracking a box is roughly the equivalent of throwing your money into a Sinkhole and hoping against hope that you get lucky. If you haven't already done so, make sure you check out the full spoilers for Eternal Masters to get an idea of what is in the set.

Masters sets are a little bit different than regular expert-level expansions for a bunch of reasons. For one thing, because the supply is limited, it's much easier for a box to have positive EV. Boxes from normal sets will always end up being a losing proposition (on average), because if there's ever a time when it's profitable to open a box, people will do it, increasing supply and driving down the prices of the cards in the set. Well, this can't happen with Eternal Masters because there isn't an unlimited supply of boxes. Even if the set is profitable to open, it's not like you can just walk into your local gaming store at any point over the next six months and pick up a box at MSRP (and maybe not even at all). 

The other big difference in Masters sets is that there's a foil in every pack, so while I usually (mostly) ignore foils when calculating the expected value of an expert expansion, for Masters sets, they really need to be included to get a fair look at the value of the box, so we'll be spending a bit more time on shiny cards than normal. The downside of this focus on foils is that we don't have very good prices for Eternal Masters foils. None of the major sites are taking preorders, and info on TCGplayer and eBay are scarce. As such, we'll have to do a bit more guessing than I'd like, which is unfortunately unavoidable. 

I also want to try something new in this expected value article, and that is calculating the EV on Magic Online as well as in the paper world. While we won't go as in-depth as we will for paper, if you're interested in how much value you can expect in a Magic Online Eternal Masters draft, I've included a section at the end of the article. Anyway, let's get to it!

What is Expected Value?

While many of you are 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 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.

Pricing

Typically, when it comes to expected value, I like to use eBay completed listings minus 15% for shipping and fees as the baseline price because I feel this is the best approximation of what a regular player can get for their cards. Unfortunately, with Masters sets, eBay listings are fairly scattered and not always that representative. So, for Eternal Masters, we are going to be using Star City Games presale prices minus a 30% spread. Knocking 30% off of retail is usually a fairly good representation of buylist prices and usually pretty comparable to what you'll get on eBay, should you choose to go that route. It's also worth mentioning that all of these prices are for the Eternal Masters edition of the card—what the price was previously isn't relevant to our expected value breakdown. 

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 $1.25 to the expected value of the box.
  2. Most Uncommons are also worthless for the purpose of calculating EV, even in a set like Eternal Masters. If an Uncommon isn't worth at least $1.00, it goes into the bulk pile along with the Commons. On the other hand, chase Uncommons (i.e., those worth more than $1.00) will get their own section in our EV breakdown. 
  3. Foils are tricky for the reasons I mentioned in the intro, plus I'm not 100% sure of the distribution, so we'll be running on the same assumption we did for Modern Masters. The best I can figure is that you'll get maybe two (actually closer to 1.5) Rares (which could be replaced by a Mythic), six or seven Uncommons, and 14 or 15 Commons.
  4. Calculating EV is not a predictive exercise—it is a snapshot of value at a specific point in time. Mana Crypt could spike to $150 over the next couple months or drop to $30, and it wouldn't make this EV calculation any more or less true because the one and only thing we are concerned with is the current value of the cards in the set.
  5. I expect the prices on some of these cards to decrease over the summer. This is especially true of the Uncommons and Commons, but also for Rares and some of the Mythics as well. This means the prices used in my EV calculation might not be good next week, let alone next month.
  6. Another reminder: You don't actually make a profit until you sell the card. Just cracking boxes on release weekend isn't enough; you need take the next step and actually list the cards 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 on small samples. In theory, 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.

Eternal Masters: Mythics

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

Eternal Masters—Mythics
Card SCG Retail Player Value (−30% Spread) Multiplier EV Added
Mana Crypt $89.99 $62.99 0.2 $12.60
Karakas $79.99 $55.99 0.2 $11.20
Force of Will $79.99 $55.99 0.2 $11.20
Jace, the Mind Sculptor $69.99 $48.99 0.2 $9.80
Vampiric Tutor $29.99 $20.99 0.2 $4.20
Sneak Attack $29.99 $20.99 0.2 $4.20
Natural Order $29.99 $20.99 0.2 $4.20
Dack Fayden $19.99 $13.99 0.2 $2.80
Chrome Mox $14.99 $10.49 0.2 $2.10
Argothian Enchantress $9.99 $6.99 0.2 $1.40
Maelstrom Wanderer $9.99 $6.99 0.2 $1.40
Necropotence $7.99 $5.59 0.2 $1.12
Balance $3.99 $2.79 0.2 $0.55
Worldgorger Dragon $2.99 $2.09 0.2 $0.42
Sphinx of the Steel Wind $1.99 $1.39 0.2 $0.28
Totals        
Average Mythic Value $32.17 $22.49    
Total Value Added to Box $96.51 $67.47    

All in all, the Mythic slot adds $67.47 to the value of an Eternal Masters box, but the Mythics of Eternal Masters are quite top-heavy, which is going to lead to a lot of variance in box opening. If you manage to hit one of the big four Mythics (Karakas, Jace, the Mind Sculptor, Mana Crypt, or Force of Will), your box will very likely be a winner. On the other hand, if you miss on a chase Mythic, you're pretty much left hoping you win the flottery (foil lottery) to have any chance of your box being worth MSRP (or more). The good news is that Eternal Masters has four chase Mythics (unlike a set like Modern Masters 2015, which is close to Tarmogoyf or bust), so your odds of opening one in any given box aren't actually that bad. So what excatly are your odds of getting one of the four big Mythics from your Eternal Masters box? 

First off, the stated odds of getting a Mythic is one in every eight packs, so as a baseline, we are expecting three Mythics per box. Second, the odds of opening any individual Mythic is 0.2 (which is why 0.2 is the multipler used for calculating the expected value), but we don't really care about Worldgorger Dragon; we want to know the odds of opening something good. Well, the good news is your odds of opening any one of Jace, the Mind Sculptor, Karakas, Mana Crypt, or Force of Will in your box is nearly a coin flip, with 48.35% of Eternal Masters boxes containing one of these cards. But what if you're hoping to get really lucky and open two of these cards in the same box? Here, your odds drop significantly—down to 14.5%—but this still means more than one in every ten boxes will get you two of the four chase Mythics. Or, what about the god box, with all three Mythics being one of the four most valuable? Don't hold your breath on this one; only 0.008% of boxes will contain three of the four, making it less than 1 in 1,000!

Eternal Masters: Rares

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

Eternal Masters—Rares
Card SCG Retail Player Value (−30% Spread) Multiplier EV Added
Wasteland $59.99 $41.99 0.4 $16.80
Sensei's Divining Top $24.99 $17.49 0.4 $7.00
Maze of Ith $19.99 $13.99 0.4

$5.60

Sylvan Library $19.99 $13.99 0.4 $5.60
Entomb $15.99 $11.19 0.4 $4.48
Sinkhole $12.99 $9.09 0.4 $3.91
Enlightened Tutor $11.99 $8.49 0.4 $3.36
Heritage Druid $9.99 $6.99 0.4 $2.80
Gamble $9.99 $6.99 0.4 $2.80
Vindicate $9.99 $6.99 0.4 $2.80
Shardless Agent $7.99 $5.59 0.4 $2.24
Duplicant $5.99 $4.19 0.4 $1.68
Mystical Tutor $5.99 $4.19 0.4 $1.68
Green Sun's Zenith $5.99 $4.19 0.4 $1.68
Regal Force $5.99 $4.19 0.4 $1.68
Toxic Deluge $5.99 $4.19 0.4 $1.68
Winter Orb $4.99 $3.49 0.4 $1.40
Deathrite Shaman $4.99 $3.49 0.4 $1.40
Wrath of God $4.99 $3.49 0.4 $1.40
Isochron Scepter $4.99 $3.49 0.4 $1.40
Imperious Perfect $3.99 $2.79 0.4 $1.12
Mother of Runes $3.99 $2.79 0.4 $1.12
Ichorid $3.99 $2.79 0.4 $1.12
Baleful Strix $3.99 $2.79 0.4 $1.12
Xantid Swarm $2.99 $2.09 0.4 $0.84
Visara the Dreadful $2.99 $2.09 0.4 $0.84
Eight-and-a-Half-Tails $2.99 $2.09 0.4 $0.84
Goblin Charbelcher $2.99 $2.09 0.4 $0.84
19 Bulk Rares ($0.49–$0.99 retail) $0.10 $0.10 0.4*19 $0.76
6 Semi-Bulk Rares ($1.00–$1.99 retail) $0.25 $0.25 0.4*6 $0.60
Totals        
Average Rare Value $5.20 $3.65    
Total Value Added $109.2 $76.55    

First off, the Rares from a box of Eternal Masters add about $76 to the price of a box, which isn't great for a "Masters" set. Only a handful of Rares will pay for a pack (six, which means only 11% of packs without Mythics will contain a Rare worth MSRP), and the "bulk" Rare rate (Rares worth less than one-half of MSRP) is quite high, in the 70% range, similar to Modern Masters 2015. However, a lot of this is the result of price decreases attributable to the Eternal Masters reprinting, with many Rares starting off at half of their before-spoiling price, which is actually a good thing for players because it means you'll be able to pick up eternal and Commander staples at a steep discount. So, while the value of the Rares in Eternal Masters isn't great for people looking to crack a box, there's a good reason behind that: powerful cards are getting less expensive. So, just how many bulk Rares should you expect to open in a box of Eternal Masters? Let's see!

The chart above shows the distribution of bulk Rares in a box of Eternal Masters. Altogether, 36 Rares are currently worth less than $5 (which I'm counting as bulk in a $10 pack—the same as a $2 rare in a $4 pack). As you can see, your odds of getting less than 10 bulk Rares or more than 18 bulk Rares are insignificant. While the most likely outcome is that your box of Eternal Masters will contain 14 bulk Rares (leaving you with seven Rares worth more than $5), over 98% of boxes will contain somewhere between 12 and 17 bulk Rares. 

Eternal Masters—Uncommons/Commons

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

Eternal Masters—Uncommons/Commons
Card Rarity SCG Retail Player Value (−50% Spread) Multiplier EV Added
Ashnod's Altar UNC $1.99 $1.00 0.9 $0.90
Blood Artist UNC $1.99 $1.00 0.9 $0.90
Bloodbraid Elf UNC $2.99 $1.50 0.9 $1.35
Brainstorm UNC $1.99 $1.00 0.9 $0.90
Cabal Therapy UNC $7.99 $1.50 0.9 $1.35
Chain Lightning UNC $4.99 $2.50 0.9 $2.25
Daze UNC $2.99 $1.50 0.9 $1.35
Harmonize UNC $1.99 $1.00 0.9 $0.90
Hymn to Tourach UNC $1.99 $1.00 0.9 $0.90
Mishra's Factory UNC $1.99 $1.00 0.9 $0.90
Price of Progress UNC $4.99 $2.50 0.9 $2.25
Rancor UNC $2.99 $1.50 0.9 $1.35
Relic of Progenitus UNC $2.99 $1.50 0.9 $1.35
Swords to Plowshares UNC $2.99 $1.50 0.9 $1.35
Wall of Omens UNC $4.99 $2.50 0.9 $2.25
Wirewood Symbiote UNC $1.99 $1.00 0.9 $0.90
Young Pyromancer UNC $4.99 $2.50 0.9 $2.25
Totals          
Total Uncommon Value Added   $46.80 $23.40    
Counterspell COM $0.99 $0.50 2.36 $1.18
Faithless Looting COM $0.99 $0.50 2.36 $1.18
Kird Ape COM $0.99 $0.50 2.36 $1.18
Peregrine Drake COM $0.99 $0.50 2.36 $1.18
Total Common Value Added   $9.44 $4.72    
           

Let's start by giving Wizards some major props on the lower rarities in Eternal Masters. One of the biggest problems with Modern Masters 2015 was the complete and total lack of value at Common and Uncommon, which lead to a ton of packs with literally no value at all. In fact, I just looked back over my Modern Masters 2015 EV article, and altogether Commons and Uncommons added about $12 to the value of a box. Well, it looks like Wizards heard the complaint that opening a $10 pack and ending up with nothing in return felt extremely bad and fixed the problem. The value of Commons and Uncommons is up 150% from Modern Masters 2015, with Eternal Masters coming in with an expected value of $28 from the Uncommon and Common slots. 

This is great news for anyone planning on opening sealed product, whether it be an entire box or just a draft, because it means you're likely to go home with something. Sure, maybe you got a Call the Skybreaker in your Rare slot, but if you have a Price of Progress or Cabal Therapy at Uncommon, it doesn't hurt quite as bad. Think of it this way: my grandmother loves to play scratch-off lottery tickets. No matter how many times I try to explain that she is literally incinerating her retirement money, she still buys them because she enjoys the thrill of the game. One thing the makers of lottery tickets love to do is give people a token prize of $1. No one buys a lottery ticket hoping to win $1. Actually, $1 is almost an insult when you compare it to the grand prize of millions. The thing is, my grandmother loves winning that dollar. She can spend $20 on lottery tickets, win $1 on a few of them, and feel like a winner. Because she likes this feeling (even though she's actually losing money), she goes back and buys more lottery tickets. 

Putting value in the Common and Uncommon slots has this same effect. Yes, no one buys a pack of Eternal Masters hoping their best card is Young Pyromancer, but opening a Young Pyromancer is just enough of a "win" to keep the player happy and (hopefully, from Wizards' perspective) coming back for more. So, not only is an uptick in value at Uncommon and Common good for players, but it's good for Wizards as well. Let's say you are sitting down to an Eternal Masters draft (meaning you'll open three packs); just how many money Uncommons will you open? Let's look at the distribution.

What this chart shows is that you'll whiff on a valuable Uncommon about one in every ten drafts, which is roughly the same probability of opening four money Uncommons in the same three-pack sample. About half of the time, you'll get either one or two money Uncommons in a draft, and almost 30% of the time, you'll luck out and get three or four! 

Foils

As I mentioned in the intro, coming up with good prices for Eternal Masters foils, especially for eternal playables that are being printed in foil for the first time, is nearly impossible. None of the big vendors are listing presales, and even on TCGplayer, there's a single person listing presales for some but not all cards (and there's really no way of knowing if their prices are fair, since no one seems to be buying them). 

Typically, the easiest way to account for foils is by using a multiplier, where the foil version of a card is worth roughly two times the non-foil, but this doesn't always hold true with eternal playables. More important to Eternal Masters, cards like Pyroblast and Hydroblast are getting their first foil printing, which means they will likely be significantly more expensive than their non-foil prices would suggest. As a result, the prices I've used are based on the x2 multiplier (which should be about right for many cards), but then adjusted to account for specific cards that throw the numbers out of whack. 

Eternal Masters—Foils
Rarity # Per Box Average Value EV Added
Mythic 0.166

$75.90

$12.60
Rare 1.6 $9.12 $14.59
Uncommons 6.2 $1.17 $7.25
Commons 16 $0.15 $2.40
Totals      
Foil Value Added to Box $26.84    

There's really more guesswork than I like in the foil value breakdown, but unfortunately this is unavoidable. That said, foils, especially Rares and Mythics, are scarce enough that "missing" on the value doesn't have a huge impact on the value of a box. Seriously, every foil Mythic could be worth double the value I used for the calculation and it would shift the box value by $12, which might sound like a lot, but for a $240 MSRP product, $12 one way or another isn't much of anything. 

What I'm trying to say is, I'm not 100% confident in my foil prices, but this really should not matter. Even if I'm way, way off, it isn't going to change the overall conclusion of the EV article, because even in a "foil-in-every-pack" Masters set, foils are the least meaningful cards when it comes to determining expected value. 

Putting it All Together

Eternal Masters—EV Summary
Rarity Average Price Number Value Added
Mythic $22.49 15 $67.43
Rare $3.65 53 $76.55
Non-Bulk Uncommons $1.37 17 $23.40
Non-Bulk Commons $0.50 4 $4.72
Bulk $5 / Thousand 300 $1.30
Foils     $26.84
TOTAL BOX EV $200.24    
PACK EV $8.34    
Draft EV $25.03    

So, there you have it. If you buy a booster box of Eternal Masters, you can expect to get back about $200 in value at an approximation of "buylist" prices. If you go with full-on SCG retail prices, the number jumps up to about $260, which is slightly above MSRP, but not by much. In fact, the expected value of Eternal Masters is almost exactly the same as that of Modern Masters (which was $253 at SCG retail prices and just below $200 at buylist prices). 

Slight rant: it's pretty absurd that people are being forced to pay $300+ for a box of Eternal Masters when Modern Masters 2015, which contained almost exactly the same amount of value, was readily available at (or even below) MSRP for months. Now, I understand why this is happening—the spoilers on Monday and Tuesday were insane and made it appear that a box of Eternal Masters was going to be massively plus-EV. The thing is, this happens every time. The best and most valuable cards always get spoiled first, so I think the lesson here is to not get taken in by the early spoilers. The bulk will come; it always does.

Magic Online Expected Value

Unfortunately, Eternal Masters is a complete bust for Magic Online players for two reasons. For one thing, a lot of the chase cards in the set were just reprinted in Vintage Masters, which crushed their prices to such an extent that they still haven't recovered. Second, Wizards didn't seem to make an effort to include "important-for-Magic-Online" reprints like Misdirection or Rishadan Port in the set. Perhaps there's another Vintage Masters on the way and Wizards is holding these cards back. Anyway, I promised an Magic Online EV breakdown, so an Magic Online EV breakdown we will have. 

First, there are a couple things worth mentioning, with the foremost being that the Magic Online prices are for older versions, since preorders do not exist on Magic Online. This means, if anything, that this EV breakdown likely overstates the value of the Eternal Masters versions of the cards, since prices will likely drop more while drafts are firing. Also, I'm not going to break down each card individually like I did in paper because it feels like overkill, so instead I've just calculated the average value of the cards at each rarity. Finally, it's important to remember that on Magic Online, Eternal Masters boosters have an MSRP of $7 rather than $10, which helps (slightly) to alleviate the problem with lower prices. 

Magic Online Eternal Masters EV
Rarity Average Value Odds of Opening in Pack EV Added
Mythic 4.32 tix 0.125 0.54
Rare 2.48 tix 0.875 2.17
Uncommon 0.30 tix 3.00 0.89
Total     3.6 tix per pack
      10.8 tix per draft

Conclusion

So, is it worth buying a box of Eternal Masters? If the goal is to make a profit, then not especially. The variance is just too high, and the typical box is going to be a loser. If you can get a box for near MSRP, it's much more justifiable—sure, you might not come out ahead right away, but you're not going to come out that far behind—but paying $300 for a box is pretty crazy, since the expected value simply doesn't justify the price. 

On the other hand, if you're playing a draft in the paper world, you shouldn't lose too much at current prices, and if you can win a prize pack or two, you should at least break even and maybe even come out a little bit ahead. Plus, regardless of anything else, there's no doubt that Eternal Masters has been a success in dropping the prices of some very expensive cards like Karakas and Mana Crypt, not to mention a bunch of lower-value Rares and a ton of playable Uncommons. 

Anyway, what are your thoughts? Are you happy with Eternal Masters overall? Are you planning on purchasing a box (or have you already)? 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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