Tribal Thriftiness #44 – The Cost of the Mythic Rare

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Tuesday, October 21st – The addition of a fourth rarity was always going to impact the secondary market… or was it? Dave explores the financial side of the new mythic rares in Shards of Alara.

There are literally a metric ton of topics that probably will need to be covered in this column in the face of the release of Shards of Alara: Alara staples, the upcoming State Championships (and, of course, the StarCityGames.com $5K Standard Open this weekend), more than I probably know, even. See, I was on vacation last week, and so while I can expound for days on the wait times for Space Mountain and where’s the best chance to get your Autograph Book signed by the Little Mermaid, I honestly have no idea what’s happened in the Magical World while I was AFK. For all I know, someone may have discovered that Puca’s Mischief deck that wrecks the entire Standard format.

Hee hee. Puca’s Mischief.

Ahem! Where was I? Oh yes, Standard, and the likely flood of information that became available last week. Well, while we wait for me to read every drop of Magical literature that occurred while I was “with the Mouse,” let’s talk about something that we can find immediate, mathematical proof for: the Cost of the Mythic Rare.

From the moment Wizards announced that they were adding a fourth rarity into Magic, sources far and wide across the Internets commented about what the final price point would be for this copper-red “super-rare.” My own opinion, based on the price tags of the Lorwyn Planeswalkers, put the average price of a mythic rare at about twenty bucks — or twice the cost of an average rare. Ben Bleiweiss, on the other hand, thought that the introduction of Mythic Rares (along with the new set size) would only produce a small fluctuation in the total cost to build a playset of all the rares in a single set.

Both of these theories should be immediately provable thanks to some easy math and the Star City Search Engine — so let’s see the new numbers, now that Shards has been released and is available as singles!

The Average Rare

The fifteen Mythic Rares in Shards, using Star City’s prices as of Sunday, October 19, 2008, add up to $155, or a little over $10 per rare. The high cost of the Planeswalkers is offset by the lower cost tag on the Legendaries, only one of which is over ten bucks (Rafiq of the Many, currently sitting at $12.50). That, thankfully, is a lot lower than I expected, I’ll admit. But relative to the rest of the set, is it on par? The other 53 rares in the set cost… $113.75, or about $2.15 a rare. The new “dollar rare” is actually going for fifty cents.

So is this a statement about the playability of the average rare versus the playability of the average mythic rare? Which is the bigger factor in the price — the playability, or the color of the expansion symbol?

Let’s say, for argument’s sake, that the “most playable” rares will carry the largest price tag. The top fifteen rares add up to $64.50, which is $4.50 a rare. Even judging only the “playable” cards, a Mythic Rare is about twice the cost of a regular rare.

Shards Mythics are well above two times the cost of Shards Rares, and it looks like just being Mythic is enough to double the asking price. And it looks like the “tournament staples” are pretty well split between regular Rares and Mythics.

Playing the Devil’s Advocate: And this isn’t taking into consideration Ajani Vengeant’s likely low low price tag of ten bucks, which is probably due to the oversaturation of the card from its use as the Prerelease and Launch Party promo. Seeing as how he’s a pretty decent Planeswalker with a bevy of really good abilities, he might be up in the price range of his Planeswalker buddies if he weren’t in such heavy circulation.

Procuring a Set

Ben’s point was that, on average, it should cost you about the same (adjusted for the set size) to acquire a set of the rares — that the new Mythic rarity wouldn’t impact the overall cost as much as us naysayers would have you believe. Is it possible that, due to the natural fluctuation of the market and the magic of supply and demand, that both sentiments are true?

As you can see from the last section, four of each of the mythics is 4 x $155, or $620. The rest of the rares will run you $455, for a total cost of $1075. There are 68 total rares and mythics. This averages out to $15.80 per playset on average.

Let’s compare with the most recent big set, Shadowmoor. Shadowmoor is a good set to compare because it has a similar price structure to Shards — the top-end cards are in the mid-20s, there’s a solid smattering of lower-double-digit prices, and the bulk of the rares are five bucks or less. A playset of each of Shadowmoor’s 80 rares will cost $876, averaging $10.95 per playset. If you adjust the cost for the smaller number of rares in Shards, Shadowmoor’s rares would cost $744.60.

Just to make sure that Shadowmoor isn’t actually a bad set for this comparison’s purpose, here are the other sets in the current Standard environment:

Eventide: 60 rares, $554 for a set of all 60 (average $9.23/playset), adjusts to $627.87 for 68 rares
Morningtide: 50 rares, $506 for a set of all 50 (average $10.12/playset), adjusts to $688.16 for 68 rares
Lorwyn: 80 rares, $1013 for a set of all 80 (average $12.66/playset), adjusts to $861.05 for 68 rares

Comparing Shards of Alara to Lorwyn, the highest end that we have in Standard, the rise in price is $2.12 per playset, or about 17%. What’s really surprising is the large difference between Shards and Morningtide, with its Bitterblossoms and Mutavaults and Chameleon Colossi.

Playing the Devil’s Advocate: Some of the price difference can probably be attributed to the newness of the set and the proximity of States and other big Constructed events; as the set becomes more widely available and the formats settle down and determine which cards will have the big impacts, we may see even more price movement.

The Verdict

Clearly, the introduction of the mythic rarity is influencing the secondary market. It currently costs more to procure a set of all the rares and mythics in Shards of Alara than it would to get all of the rares in Lorwyn, despite there being a dozen more rares in Lorwyn and despite Lorwyn containing big-ticket items like Cryptic Command and Thoughtseize. Mythics on average are going for twice what a playable rare goes for in Shards of Alara. So clearly there is a price influence on the secondary market.

As Wizards goes forward with mythic rares through the Alara block, it will be interesting to see how the mythic rares compare to this first batch, both power-wise and cost-wise.

Bonus Section: CCCP Blue Spells

The purpose of the CCCP project is to build a Cube based as much on the “Greatest Hits” of commons as possible, without necessarily excluding amazing uncommons as well. 50 cards in each color, 20% uncommon, 60% creatures.

1cc: Brainstorm, Force Spike, Mystical Tutor, Piracy Charm, Ponder
2cc: Boomerang, Counterspell, Impulse, Mana Leak, Muddle the Mixture
3cc: Capsize, Oona’s Grace, Psionic Blast, Undo
4cc: Deep Analysis, Fact or Fiction, Ray of Command
5cc: Force of Will, Gush, Thoughtcast

I really like the addition of Muddle the Mixture into the 2cc slot; Transmute is a powerful mechanic that should be represented. The hardest cut was probably Remand, seeing as to the large part it played in Standard when it was legal, but I needed to cut down an uncommon and Fact or Fiction, Force of Will, and Mystical Tutor just HAD to stay, and I felt that after cutting Pongify that Blue needed SOME sort of removal, so Psionic Blast took the last uncommon spot.

Black’s creatures are up next. Here are my suggestions from a first look through the Spoiler Generator. What’s missing? What’s unnecessarily in the list? Post your thoughts in the forums.

1cc: Blood Pet, Carnophage, Festering Goblin, Mindlash Sliver, Plagued Rusalka
2cc: Augur of Skulls, Black Knight, Dauthi Slayer, Erg Raiders, Golgari Thug, Nezumi Graverobber, Order of the Ebon Hand, Ravenous Rats, Wicked Akuba, Withered Wretch, Yixlid Jailer
3cc: Mindstab Thrull, Nantuko Husk, Phyrexian Rager
4cc: Faceless Butcher, Gravedigger, Highway Robber, Nekrataal, Soul Snuffers
5cc: Okiba-Gang Shinobi, Shriekmaw, Zombie Cutthroat

… not exactly a color known for its creatures, huh? So what am I missing?

Next week: Back to the Standard grind. State Championships are a big deal for me, being the Not-Ready-For-Primetime-Player that I am. This is the time to really dig in, learn what’s available for the newly-developing format, figure out what’s available in your card pool, and just test like a crazy man. Luckily, we are also going to have big Standard tournaments, like the StarCityGames.com $5k Standard Open this weekend, that hopefully will give us an inside look at the format as it develops.

Until next week!