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The Expected Value of Time Spiral Remastered


Time Spiral Remastered will be released this week, which means it's time to take a look at the set's expected value. If you're not familiar with the concept of expected value, the idea is to figure out how much value you should expect to open in an average box. Basically, it's an attempt to figure out of a box is worth buying from a purely financial perspective. While money isn't everything and there are plenty of reasons to open a box even if the value is bad (for fun, for drafting, etc.), if you're going to spend $200 on a box of cardboard, ideally, you'd like to know that the cardboard you open will be worth the investment. 

Time Spiral Remastered specifically has some unique quirks, especially with the Time Shifted / old-border card slot. While normal old-border cards are easy enough to calculate (you'll open one per pack, and many vendors have presales listed, so we can easily find prices), foil old-border cards are a problem since they are extremely rare and major vendors aren't preselling them, but more on that in a bit. The plan for today is simple: we're going to walk through the set rarity by rarity, figure out how much each rarity adds to the expected value of the box, talk about old-border cards, and then finally add everything together to get the expected value of a box.

Oh yeah, one other thing before we get into it: for this expected-value calculation, I'm using Card Kingdom's pricing (which is actually much, much lower than TCG Mid at the moment). While Card Kingdom's pricing should give a pretty good idea of how much you'd have to pay if you wanted to buy the cards on the open market, the downside to this methodology is that it likely over-estimates how much you can sell your cards for because as an individual, you're likely not going to be able to get as much as a professional vendor can. So when you get to the end of the article and look at the expected value of a Time Spiral Remastered box, keep in mind that if your plan is to crack boxes and sell the cards for profit, you should probably discount the expected value by 25% (or possibly more) to account for the fact that it's really difficult for a random player to get full retail price for their singles.

Mythics

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

Let's start with an easy one: the mythics. There are a total of 15 mythics in Time Spiral Remastered, ranging from the $50 Sliver Legion to the $1 Hypergenesis. The breakdown is pretty extreme. As of this writing, there are five mythics worth $20 or more but also five Tree of Redemption–level mythics worth $2 or less. This means that the mythic slot is going to have a lot of variance on a box-by-box basis. It will be possible to open a box and get essentially zero value from the mythic slot but also possible to open a box that has more than $100 in value just from the five mythics. Adding everything together, the average value of a Time Spiral Remastered mythic is $14.06, and you'll get roughly five mythics in the typical box, which means the mythic slot adds $70.33 in expected value.

Rares

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

Much like the mythics of Time Spiral Remastered, the rares in the set are high variance. There are 53 in all, and 25 of them are at or near bulk (preselling for $1.50 or less). On the other hand, the set also has a handful of rares worth $10 or more and a bunch between $5 and $10, enough that the average value of a rare is currently $3.68, despite all of the low-value rares in the set. Considering you'll open roughly 31 rares in a box (with the other five rare slots going to mythics), the rares of Time Spiral Remastered add $114 to the value of a booster box.

Uncommons

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

Time Spiral Remastered has a massive 100 uncommons. You'll open 108 uncommons in each booster box, which means you'll open an average of more than than one of each uncommon per box (1.08 copies of each uncommon, to be exact). The set has one chase uncommon (Delay at $6), two other uncommons over $1 (Utopia Mycon at $1.99 and Rebuff the Wicked at $1.49), and five other uncommons that are currently preselling for $1. If we count the rest of the uncommons from Time Spiral Remastered as bulk, the eight valuable uncommons from the set add another $13.42 to our expected-value calculation.

Commons

$ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00

There are only really two commons worth mentioning: Logic Knot and Simian Spirit Guide, both of which are selling for around $1. You'll open about three of them per box (there are 121 total commons, with 360 total commons in a box), which means Logic Knot and Simian Spirit Guide add another $6 to the set's expected value.

Recap

Time Spiral Remastered Expected-Value Recap
Rarity Value Added
Mythic $70.33
Rare $114.00
Uncommon $14.32
Common $6
Total:  $204.65

Before moving on to the most exciting (and complicated) part of the set—the old-border cards—let's quickly recap where we are at so far. Even discounting old-border cards and foils, the expected value of Time Spiral Remastered is $205, which is essentially what it costs to buy a box. While there will be a lot of variance due to the high number of chase cards and even higher number of bulk cards, the set has enough value that just the cards in the main set basically justify the cost of a box, which sort of makes all of the old-border cards you'll get a bonus. The way I'm looking at Time Spiral Remastered is that I'll be hoping to basically break even on the main set, and then whatever sweet (and valuable) old-border cards I happen to get in my box will be pure profit.

Old-Border Cards

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

The old-border cards from Time Spiral Remastered are unique. You'll open one in each pack, and they are all the same rarity, which means your odds of opening an expensive Thoughtseize is exactly the same as opening a very inexpensive Secret Plans. While I'm a bit skeptical that current prices will hold up, currently, the value of the old-border cards from Time Spiral Remastered is off the charts. In fact, the average value of an old-border card is $8.16. With 36 old-border cards per box, that means that just the old border slot adds a massive $293.65 to the expected value of a box. Yes, you read that right: the 36 old-border cards you'll get from a booster box will likely be worth more than everything else in the box. Price are so high that if Wizards sold one-card packs featuring a single old border card and nothing else, it would still be very much worth it to buy a box for $200.

Of course, this doesn't consider old-border foils, which, at this point, basically don't have a price since the supply of Time Spiral Remastered itself and old-border foils specifically is so low that vendors are worried about listing them and not having enough to sell. On average, you'll open an old-border foil once in every 27 packs, which averages out to 1.3 per box. This also means that old-border foils are 27 times as rare as normal old-border cards.

To put the scarcity of old border foils into perspective, consider this: it will take roughly 91 boxes to open one copy of each old-border foil. Meanwhile, stores pay somewhere around $120 a box at wholesale prices (the amount stores pay to get Time Spiral Remastered boxes—players can't get them for this price). This means means it takes nearly $11,000 of product at wholesale prices to open one copy of each (and almost double that at retail prices).

The next question is how much Time Spiral Remastered that Wizards will release. We know that last year, Wizards made had around $900 million in revenue, but this includes both Dungeons and Dragons and Magic. Plus, Wizards released 30 or 40 products last year, including all of the various Secret Lair drops. Let's say Wizards sells $10 million worth of Time Spiral Remastered (a number that could be too low). That would mean there would be roughly 900 copies of each foil old-border card in existence. What if they sell $50 million (a number that is almost certainly too high, or Wizards would be making more than $900 million a year total between all of the various products it produces)? That would give us about 4,500 copies of each foil old-border card. 

$ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00

So, let's say there are somewhere between 1,000 and 4,000 of each foil old-border card in existence. Just how scarce does that make foil old-border cards? Well, there were apparently around 1,000 copies of each Alpha rare printed and 3,260 of each Beta rare, which would mean a foil old-border Ponder or Panharmonicon would have roughly as many copies in print as an Alpha or Beta Black Lotus. Plus, it's likely that most of these copies won't hit the market. I'm planning to crack a box or two, and if I open a sweet foil old-border card, it's almost certainly going into a Commander deck or, at worst, a binder, rather than being sold, so the number of foil old-border cards that are actually for available for purchase will likely be a lot lower than even our already shockingly low estimate suggests. 

$ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00

All this is to say, I honestly have no idea how to price foil old-border cards. My expectation is that the good ones will be worth hundreds of dollars and even the bad ones should be worth $20, based purely how on scarce they are. The possibility of opening a valuable old-border card certainly adds a decent amount to the expected value of a box—I just have no idea how much. I'd guess that $50 is a pretty safe estimate since a single Thoughtseize that might be worth a few hundred dollars will push up the average, although it's a crapshoot for any individual box—your odds of getting a Thoughtseize in your old-border foil slot is exactly the same as getting a Secret Plans

Since there is literally no pricing for old-border foils at the moment, I'm going to treat them as a bonus and leave them out of the expected-value calculation. Just know that the possibility of opening a good foil old-border does make boxes worth more than the EV number suggests—we just don't know exactly how much. Thankfully, at current prices, Time Spiral Remastered has a high enough expected value that you don't need to hit a good foil for a box to be worth it. 

Wrap-Up

EV Recap
Rarity Value Added
Mythic $70.33
Rare $114.00
Uncommon $14.32
Common $6
Old Border $293.65
Foils ???
Total:  $498.30

As you can see, even discounting foils, the expected value of Time Spiral Remastered currently is off the charts. Of course, we're using presale prices, which are usually inflated to some extent, but the expected value of about $500 means that cards in the set could lose half of their value, and the box would still have a positive expected value. 

Even though $200-ish for a box sounds like a lot, it's actually a good deal compared to the amount of value you should expect to open, and this doesn't even consider the possibility of opening a good old-border foil, which probably will be worth more than the box's cost all by itself. While you're unlikely to actually be able to sell your cards for presale prices, the expected value is so high that even if you're only getting 50% of what vendors like Card Kingdom or StarCityGames get, the average box of Time Spiral Remastered will still be profitable.

It's also possible that the prices of cards in the set won't drop that much, simply because there are rumors about the supply being extremely limited. For print-to-demand sets (like Kaldheim), the expected value of a box will also end up lower than the cost of a box because if the EV is too high, people will buy boxes, crack them, and sell the cards they open, increasing supply and driving down prices. This isn't necessarily true for Masters sets though, which typically have a limited print run, meaning that supply sometimes runs out fairly quickly and you eventually might not be able to get a box for a reasonable price, even if you want one.  

That said, I do think that prices need to come down. The expected value is just way, way too high. My guess is that both the cards from the main set and non-foil old-border cards need to drop a lot in price, perhaps close to 50% on average, just to get the expected value of a box down into the high-normal range. So if you are planning to buy singles rather than crack boxes, wait another week or two. There's just no way a box can sell for $200 and maintain a $500 expected value. Something has to give, unless supply is way more limited than anyone realizes. If you want a couple of weeks for people to crack their boxes and sell the cards they don't want, you should be able to get an even bigger discount on some Commander, Modern, and Legacy staples, even if you don't want to take the gamble of cracking an expensive box yourself.

Conclusion

Anyway, that's all for today. 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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