So with 9th Edition about to hit the shelves, a lot of people are simply wondering if it's even worth it. Comments have been ranging from (prespoiler) "If all ten painlands get reprinted, I am definately going to buy boxes!" to (postspoiler) "Ninth is the worst core set ever." Opinions are opinions, but the world's greatest opinion maker is the almighty dollar (or pound, or Euro, or Yen, or etc...) and I am going to take a shot at explaining how you should be spending your money on July 29th. The following paragraphs will attempt to show you where I think the money will be in Cardboard Crack Ninth, I'll evalute boxes/packs versus singles, and how I think the reprints will affect the secondary marketplace. Also keep in mind that none of the following opinions have anything to do with MTGO, since I am exactly the wrong person to even begin to speculate on that.
To Box or Not to Box? That is the Question.
For starters let's take a shot at some really simple statistics. So simple they don't even involve math, so don't get scared off just yet.
Classic (6th) had 350 cards broken down as 110 of each rarity and 20 lands. Seventh and Eighth had the exact same breakdown (if you ignore the seven extra cards that only showed up in the Starter packs as a bonus). As of the initial writing of this article, we don't have proof of the exact distribution of card rarities, but it's pretty safe to say that history repeats itself and we'll have 110 of each.
Cards aren't only distributed in sets; they are distributed in packs as well. So let's take a quick look at the packs - Seventh and Eighth packs had 10 commons, 3 uncommons, a rare, and a basic land. Assuming Ninth follows suit, it should have the same 10:3:1:1 ratio. Foils complicate this a little, but not really. Every 5 packs or so, you get a foil. The foil card replaces a card of the same rarity even though it is placed in a different spot in the pack. Every box should contain a foil rare. Occasionally you get zero or two, but those mistakes happen...
In really raw numbers, buying a box should net you most of the Uncommons (108 out of 110) but in reality expect about 75 different ones, since you'll probably get some doubles. For commons you do the best and score 3-4 (nearly a playset) of each. Sadly, as for rares, which is probably the reason you are buying this box to begin with, you will only get about a third of them.
It gets worse: most rares will have a value around a $1 (sometimes less), with a very few peaking about $5-10. In an average box, you're looking at about $35-45 tops worth of rare value. So now question yourself, is $75-$100 worth those three out of ten painlands you'll probably get? Probably not, and I doubt that tossing in a Hippie sweetens the deal enough. Add a Wrath of God. Are we there yet? Are you willing to take that chance? If you're willing to take the 0.91% chance to get the Foil Hippie than it may be worth it... You would need a dream box filled with each of the chase rares and one of the following foils: Hypnotic Specter, Gift of Estates, Kird Ape (assuming it is rare), Verdant Force, or Jester's Cap in order to justify spending $80 on 35 random Ninth edition rares and a foil.
Everyone wants the box like that, but I know that as many boxes as I choose to open I won't get it. I can't justify buying a box banking on the fact that I am going to get one or a specific subset of rares; it's just too risky. Save your pennies, buy them as singles, and you'll come out ahead in the long run.
So what does make it worth it?
Well it depends on why you're buying the box. Like I just said, if you have all the commons and uncommons you'll ever need, and you only want the rares, you're probably just best off going for singles. If you are looking for a lot of bulk (like if you are new to the game and/or starting a collection, or even just want a bunch of rares and foils for trade fodder) then a box is the way to go.
Look at it this way: Of the 36 rares, a few will be good, and a lot will be trash. Most nonchase rares go for about 50 cents to $1.50, so we'll just say that average price for a rare is about a buck, so there's a quick $36 worth. Uncommons go from a dime to a dollar typically, and 108 of them at a quarter each is another $27. Boxes typically go for about $80-85 after shipping, and $27 + $36 is already $63 worth of that $85. Add in a playset of commons, and a few extra bucks for the chance of a chase rare and some good foils and you just about break even. Plus you get to rip open 36 packs and make a big mess throwing the wrappers all over your room, and that is priceless.
So the answer to the question "To box or not to box," is very simply put:
No if you only want general or specific rares/foils.
Yes for any other reason (fun included).
Ninth is going to be a set for both newer and older players. Not because they are bringing back "Timeless Classics" to make it easier for newer players to get into Legacy, but because they are making these same classics in foil. Everyone that I have talked to is more excited about the prospect of getting certain cards in foiled black border (in the case of a core set, all foils are black bordered, and the rest are white bordered) than they are about having the cards in T2 (Standard) again.
Like most Core Sets, Ninth has a lot of junk to sort through, and as I've pointed out with the sheer size of the set, it may not be worth the box investment. Cards will be individually priced to move as singles, and only some of them, (maybe 30 of all the rares in the set) will see tournament play. Out of those, even fewer of them will cost more than the price of a pack it was in. So the best way to examine this is to look at how these cards will play out in T2, guess how that will affect the market, and buy the ones you'll need then (or earlier) depending on predicitons of how and when the price will go up or down.
This article isn't specifically about T2, but since it will probably have the biggest impact on non-foiled prices I'll concentrate there. Occasionally I'll need to dip into Legacy and Extended if I think the card and format will have a big enough impact on each other to further alter the price. Before we get to that, we'll need to go over some basics that happen upon reprinting.
First off, reprinting a card in a core set does a few things to the tourney scene:
In Type 2 (Standard), you are going to be able to use this card for the next two years. Keeping a card legal in T2 is often the main force behind how its price fluctuates; all too often you'll see a card's price drop after it rotates out. Want an example? Try Arcbound Ravager - the day after this card got banned in T2 it went from a $15 rare to a $3 one, even though it's still Extended legal. It has since come back and leveled off and hangs around $5.
In Extented a card getting reprinted in a core allows it to hang out for about six more years. Sometimes cards are reprinted that are already in the extended pool; this simply keeps them around longer. Some cards not already in the pool will get added by being reprinted, and this can have an impact on their value if they are competitive enough.
Typically a card getting reprinted in a core has no impact on Type 1 (Vintage) and Type 1.5 (Legacy), since almost every card already exists in those formats. However, this year, several cards from the Portal expansions are being reprinted. Portal is currently not allowed in tournaments, but was already slated to be legalized beginning on October 20th. Any Portal cards reprinted in Ninth will become legal in all tournament formats when Ninth officially goes live in August. Expect these cards to make BIG entrances...
So based on the tourny scene outlined above, there are three things that can happen to a card's value on reprinting:
1)Some cards' values will simply shoot straight through the roof. They are back with fresh art and they are gonna rock the metagame like there is no tomorrow. These can be cards that were or weren't readily available, but are now seeing so much play that the price takes off. For a recent example, see Plow Under.
2)For some of the cards that are (or may be) currently harder to find, the new overproduction will help nullify their current high costs and bring them down. They may fluctuate a little based on which decks are using them, but the net result is a drop in price. I'm putting Verdant Force in this category. I can't see legalization bringing its price up at all, and I think that new availability will just drop the price through the floor.
3)Some cards' prices just aren't going to change. No matter what Ravnica brings to Standard in October, no matter what changes the metagame will face and no matter what new decks emerge, some things just don't change. I seriously doubt that (for example) Ardarkar Wastes will ever be more than a $2 rare. It is simply in massive supply, and little demand. The flip side of this is a card like Wrath of God. It's in every core set ever, and it is always an $8-$10 card. Production versus supply versus metagame never changed its value, and probably never will.
Cards that are currently in the core and are staying in the core probably won't change value much if at all. You all know what the chase rares from Eighth are so I'm going to ignore singling out most of them, and try to focus on cards that weren't in Eighth, but will be in Nineth.
Keep in mind that in some cases the foil version acts as an entirely different animal and could have a massive increase in value while the regular version doesn't change much. I will try to address those cases as well. And please remember that I am only making predictions as I see them, so any advice you take from me, you do so at your own risk, and with my apologies as applicable.
Chasing the Singles Down...
Blinking Spirit - A White 4CC Spirit can can bounce itself to survive Wrath effects or anything else really, and has a lot of synergy with all those other Spirit and Wisdom effects out there. Currently MOTL has it at less than a dollar; I expect it to go up to $2-3 each at first, then come back down and settle in the $1-2 zone. Also expect those old black bordered version to go up just a little more too.
Gift Of Estates - Here's the money shot right here. It's a Tithe on steroids that will now become Vintage, Legacy, and Extended legal a whole two months early. Previously released in very short supply, it went basically unnoticed since it was never tourney legal. With the anouncement that Portal sets would be legalized starting in October, prices on several cards shot up. This was already one of them. With it now entering Extended and Standard at the same time, and existing as a foil for the first time I expect this to be the chase of the chase right here. MOTL has Portal versions at about $5 each, and with simultaneous all-format legalization I expect this to shoot to about $10+, and the Portal ones (black bordered) to go even higher. If you wrap this baby up in foily goodness I can easily see a $50 price tag on it.
Paladin en-vec - Here is another solid card. However, it's already legal everywhere except t2. This is MD material for some WW builds and SB material for all the rest. This is one case where I feel new demand will meet new supply and everything will stay about the same. But again, I expect that the previous black-bordered versions will go up a little.
MOTL currently has them for about a buck each and i think they will stay relatively low; expect to find them in the $2-3 range.
Reverse Damage - Here's a card from Seventh that Eighth seemed to pass by. Well, it's back and probably as worthless as ever. This card goes from about 50 cents to $1 on MOTL and will probably stay right in that zone. It's sad but Holy Day will also be a common in Ninth and is infinitely more useful.
Weathered Wayfarer - There is only one place for this card's value to go: UP! During Onslaught block when this was T2 legal it saw a lot of play and was valued at about $5. Now it is less than $1. Some may say that it only saw play since it counted as a Cleric (Tribal), and did wonderful things for White control decks. But I say it's a solid drop that fetches ANY land, and with Ravnica being a multicolored block, land searching will not be a bad thing at all...
Did I mention that this card is White, and can search ANY land? Like even the Urzatron? Don't forget, it's White (NOT Green).
People will catch on to this fast, and it'll be a $5 card again in no time flat.
Battle of Wits - And the junk rares begin. This card is already at 3 for a buck, and while it may be a banned bomb in the Five-Color variant or fun in a few casual or multiplayer builds, it simply won't stack up in tourney level anything. It exists in recent history in black border and foil, and no real change is expected.
Clone - This one is interesting. Many people I speak to tell me that Clone is junk, and didn't see competitive play last time it was around in Onslaught. They are absolutely right...about the last part. In a format dominated by Legends, this card is Blue's way of saying: ":3mana::symu: Sorcery, Destroy Target Legend." Any comes-into-play or leaves-play abilities trigger for yourself as well." For a brief month, this will be Blue's other turn 4 answer to an entwined Tooth and Nail pulling Kiki-Jiki. This is Blue's way of saying "Goodbye, Koko, don't worry; I won't be losing life." There are simply too many uses for this in T2 as long as the Kamigawa block is around, and its easily splashable to boot. This will probably end in up a lot of sideboards, so I expect the price to stick around the $2 mark, and probably hover there until Kami rotates out, when it'll drop again (white bordered clones go for about 30 cents as it is).
Imaginary Pet - I honestly don't know what to make of this card. I can see people trying to break it, and it seems to tie in well with all the "Cards in Hand" effects in Saviors, but I really don't see it going anywhere. It's about 75 cents each now, and probably gonna stay there.
Plagiarize - I swear they are trying to kill me with the blue choices. MOTL books it at 36 cents. And there it should stay. NEXT!
Polymorph - After a four year hiatus, Polymorph is back, and it could probably go either way, but won't go anywhere. It is an interesting form of removal and could work together with Reweave. But Reweave is usually better since it splices for the same cost as a hardcast Polymorph. I expect it to stick around the $1 range. It's not quite junk, but it's not much better either.
Traumatize - There is a reason this is still a $6 card after 4 years: It is just good plain fun for everyone! It sees some play in Legacy and Extended, and it saw play in Standard when it was there; casual players love this card since it combos with Haunting Echoes for some really nasty effects. However, Haunting Echoes won't be back, so I don't know how tourney viable Traumatize is alone. Increased supply, but not demand, price should eventually drop slightly, but will probably just stay the same. Expect this to be one of the chase foils though, especially if the new art is good...
Final Punishment - While this could be a really useful finisher, it just never saw play. It wasn't worth anything in Scourge, and it still won't be.
MOTL puts it about 40 cents. Yep, that's about right too. *sigh*
Grave Pact - I'm breaking my own rules here (it was in Eighth), but have you seen the new art? Just look to the right; I've included it for you. This is gonna look sweet as a foil! While the regular version may only get a minor price lift (I can see people comboing it with Hell's Caretaker in reanimator), I expect this to jump a little in foil, and even if it doesn't I certainly want a foil playset. If any of you get them for trade PM me here. [/Shameless Plug]
Hell's Caretaker - It used to be a common; now it's rare. The black border goes for a quick fiver, while the white is less than a dollar. Being a potentially really good way of moving creatures around in the current T2 scene (reanimator is getting big), I expect this to be one of the chase Ninth cards for Black. First time in Foil, first time in T2 and Extended, and he's sticking around for a few years. He'll hit $7-10 pretty quickly and probably drop back down to around $4 then level off around there. And in foil, well, he's no Gift of Estates (see White, above), but I expect him to hit about $20 easy.
Hypnotic Specter - The other chase card in Black. Good old Hippie comes back as a rare with a completely new look. Hipsters go for about $2-3 each if you don't mind one with white borders, and more importantly - if you can find them. Most players will agree that if you see a $3 Hippie you buy, 'cause you don't know when you'll see another. That's about to change. The price on this kid is gonna shoot up. Then level off, and when people realize that he isn't good without Dark Ritual and a turn three 2/2 flyer ain't all that great, it may drop again. But increased supply is going to make it easier for casual players to find him, and they will pay more for him. The end result? Probably about $5 each. And once again, the foil tells a different story. A first time print in foils, plus an easier way to get it in black border (unless you consider getting Beta easy), is probably going to make this another $25 foil. And it is one foil set that EVERY Black Mage wants...
Mindslicer - Another card that seems like it will combo well with Saviors, but it is too recently black bordered and foiled to take a massive price hike. It may double in value from about 50 cents to a dollar, but that's still only fifty cents...
Will-o-the-wisp - A flying chump-blocking regenerator for 1 mana is exactly what Black wants. This fits into almost every deck, and if it comes back as a Spirit, the synergies are going to be disgusting. Right now it goes for about $2-3, but expect that to go up, and especially if it is a Spirit. Foils will probably be high again and in the same basic $15-20 zone.
Bloodfire Colossus - Seriously, this card is a lot of fun. Unfortunately that isn't enough to make the price tag rise. Eight CC is way too much for most tourney-level anything, and this card recently exists in black borders and foils. It's about 30 cents now, and its gonna stay there.
Flowstone Slide - This card starts at five mana to make all creatures get +1/-1 until end of turn. With enough mana this could be a board sweeper and with a little less it could be that extra push that Red needs. I think the high CC will still make it unplayable in most cases, so again supply is going to outweigh demand and the price would probably drop even more if it weren't already a dollar for a playset.
Form of the Dragon - Another card that never saw much play, and I assume it will continue to do so. The only thing that may make this viable is if combined with Epic spells, since it allows some protection and burn to boot. Prices may move up a little, but I wouldn't count on it.
Kird Ape - This used to be common, but I see it coming back as a rare. Depending on what Ravnica brings us, this could be a great card, and prices probably will go up. If it stays in the common/uncommon regions, then prices should fall flat and hard. Either way this is its first time in foil, so expect those prices to float a little while.
Rathi Dragon - First time in a core, first time in foil. Uber fast, and with a solid evasive body. Sligh craves this card, and so does every Dragon player ever. MOTL keeps it around $3; I think it can only go up. And the foil is gonna be even higher.
Wizards wants you to want this card so badly that it's on the pack art. That's gotta tell you something ;).
Thundermare - At 6cc it's a little steep, especially with Rathi Dragon also being rare and costing 2CC less. But otherwise it may see some play as an alternate finisher. I'm not expecting much other than a drop in price (I just think that increased supply is going to kill this one). However, this may be a chase foil if it looks good enough...
All in all, nonfoils will stay at about 50 cents to $1, and foil will probably be around $10.
Biorythm - while this card may possibly be tourney worthy, it is in and of itself a multiplayer powerhouse. But multiplayer games don't drive prices, and it already exists recently as a black bordered, and in foil. It goes for about a buck, and probably won't change.
Force of Nature - Any 8/8 Trample for six really is nothing to sneeze at, even with an upkeep. May just be me, but in competitive and for nearly the same CC I think I would rather just have Jugan, the Rising Star. This already exists for less than a dollar each in white border, and while the foil may get a bit pricey, I don't think that the regular version will be worth much more or less than it is now.
Greater Good - Decent card draw in Green. This may be playable, but really seems like a "win more" card. This will be its first time in foil, but now original Urza's Saga copies only go for a dollar each. Again, I don't expect a big change.
Seedborn Muse - This card has "combo" written all over it. And she's a Spirit. Does Green have a place for a 5CC spirit that lets you untap on your opponent's turn? I'll bet it does. MOTL and E-bay have them about $2.50 each, but since she already exists in black border and foils, that's probably where she'll stay.
Silklash Spider - Another fun and powerful card, but it is way too situational. It may be a sideboard option, but probably won't be. Recently printed as blackbordered and foil, it'll stay at about a buck, if it doesn't drop. for the best trade results, trade yours off to Timmy and multiplayers; we eat this kind of card up.
Utopia Tree - Worse than Llanowar Elves, worse than Birds of Paradise. Mono-Green builds will simply sub in Llany's until Birds get reprinted in Ravnica, and dual colored decks will get the appropriate painland. Post Ravnica this may see play as a one or two of along with four Birds for extra mana fixing or as a placeholder for Birds for people without them. It's about $2 now for a black border, and it already exists in foil. I wouldn't expect much change in prices whatsoever.
Verdant Force - Flip a coin. Heads: Foil prices shoot up, tails: overproduction drives the current $6 price down. He already exists (unused) in Extended and I seriously doubt T2 has a place for him, especially with Jugan costing 2 less. However, this card is a Casual player's dream; it's overcosted and has no evasion, but it makes little Saproling babies. Reprinting this is gonna make it easier for people to get their hands on and the price should drop. But this will be the Force's first time in Foil, and there it's gonna cost some cash; I'm guessing about $20. Collectors dig this card.
Booby Trap - Now this is an exciting card! Add this to Jester's Cap and a recent group of library manipulation for all colors, and you have the potential for a lot of answers to competitive decks. It's only a dollar now, and i'm not sure how many decks can support a 6cc for an answer, but first time in foil means this card has some potential to go places.
I can see it in sidebaords and probably in the $2 range, with foils around $7-10.
Jester's Cap - The bank card of the Artifacts. It goes for about $3 now, but wait until it simultaneously becomes T2 and Exended legal. Almost every deck has a place for this somewhere, be it in the main deck or the sideboard. This card was tourney worthy in its time and still is. Get them while you can; they'll be worth $7-10 in another month, and the foils can easily break the $20 mark.
Loxodon Warhammer - This card hasn't even rotated out as an uncommon and it's getting printed as a rare. This could either drive the uncommon price up (new rare status, but the uncommons are black bordered), or keep the rare price low. Either way I'd be pretty upset if this were the rare I pulled.
Slate of Ancestry - This was used in Onslaught block when it premiered, but mainly in Elf decks that could afford the high mana cost. Elves seem to be making a bit of a comeback, but I doubt this will really go anywhere without a Wirewood Channeler or Priest of Titania to power it. It may find a home depending on what future sets bring, but I wouldn't expect it to ever rise over the $2 mark.
Thran Golem - People love this card. When broken correctly, this can spell doom for an opponent, however your deck can still be named "Loses to Shatter". People will try to break it and add it as an alternate win to some decks, but don't expect the price to really go up.
Ok, we get all 10 painlands back, rather then sum them all up individually i'm going to do it in two types. Keep in mind that all ten of them already fully exist in Extended and older formats, but all will be coming back into T2 at the same time for the first time in a few years.
Allied Pain lands - Brushland, , Adarkar Wastes, Underground River, Sulfurous Springs, Karplusan Forest.
These cards debuted in Ice Age and have been reprinted several times each since then. They first appeared in foil in Seventh edition, and really aren't in short supply. Depending which one, these cards range from $2-5 each and will stay right about there. Again, I don't see much of an increase in demand, especially since cards are already done to death in white border.
Enemy Pain lands - Battlefield Forge, Caves of Koilos, Shivan Reef, Yavimaya Coast, Llanowar Wastes.
Originally and so far only printed in Apocolypse, these cards exist in a much smaller supply than the Allied ones. They were also printed in black border and foil, and this will be their first time in white border. I expect these prices to fluctuate a lot, and since T2 will be losing City of Brass people will be using these for fill-ins. If Ravnica brings us better duals as speculated, then the price on these will drop when supply finally meets with casual demand. If Ravnica doesn't bring tourney-worthy duals, then who knows? These cards will rise and fall in price as new decks come into being and then die out.
I hope I've given you some insight as to what things could cost next month. Hopefully if you were undecided on whether to buy boxes or not, you'll now be prepared to make an educated decision one way or the other. I know I pushed singles a little harder than boxes, but I tried to write this from a financially objective point of view. And while that point of view makes for nice fiscal planning, it simply doesn't allow for the fun factor of ripping open packs or buying a box just to draft with your friends. As for me, I'm older and financially stable, and I already have a box on preorder. I've got a date with myself to shred some packs and enjoy the "What did I get THIS time?" feeling that only a box can give you. Then, when it's all said and done, most of the rares and foils will go in my trade binder, and I'll buy singles and trade for the rest of the cards I want...
Banner by ButteBlues18
Editing by Goblinboy