In the Magic: The Gathering card game, trading cards originate from sealed product such as booster boxes and preconstructed decks for Commander. Once trading cards are obtained from various sealed product, they can be traded and sold among players (and businesses). A secondary market exists in the Magic: The Gathering card game where players buy and sell individual trading cards. The value for an individual card is determined by demand, supply, rarity, tournament results, and other factors. The market prices for single cards can fluctuate daily. Online vendors and selling platforms such as TCGPlayer, Card Kingdom, Star City Games, and Ebay can have a predominate impact on a card's supply availability. In addition, a number of popular MTG related websites use pricing from TCGPlayer to determine a card's market value. A potential result of this relationship is when the market price rises for a single card on TCGPlayer, the price may also increase on other websites. Vendors may react to a price increase across multiple websites by raising their selling prices as well. The interconnectivity of MTG card prices, along with supply availability, enables the possibility of large price swings. What is a Buyout? A buyout is when all available (on the Internet) copies of an individual card are bought by one or multiple individuals in a short period of time. Typically, this action is taken to increase the price of a particular card by limiting the supply availability. There are multiple reasons and scenarios a buyout could occur. One example of a potential buyout is when a speculator notices the price of an individual card is undervalued relative to its demand. The speculator could buyout all copies of a specific card and then resell them after the price increases. Example of a Previous Buyout: Hexdrinker The Modern Horizons MTG set was released on June 14th, 2019. This set contains a mythic card named Hexdrinker. Upon release of MH, Hexdrinker's price was around $10.00 in paper form. According to MTGGoldfish, Hexdrinker increased in price to $25.00 on July 11th, 2019. The result of this rapid price movement was due to individuals buying all available copies of the card. The Hexdrinker price graph on MTGGoldfish shows when the buyout occurred. One week later, the price of Hexdrinker dropped to around $21.00. By August 2019, the price had fallen further to $16.00. The constant decline in price following the buyout was likely due to the lack of demand for Hexdrinker at a higher price point. However, Hexdrinker did not return to its prebuyout price until October 2019. There was a period where individuals who purchased or obtain copies prior to the buyout could sell them for a profit. Analyzing a Recent Buyout Attempt: ZoZu, The Punisher ZoZu, The Punisher is a MTG card that saw its first printing in the Champions of Kamigawa set. A reprint of the card is included in the Duel Decks: Mind vs. Might product from Spring 2017. While not a popular card, ZoZu sees fringe play in Commander and various constructed formats. On December 22nd, 2019, I noticed supply levels were low for ZoZu across both printings. The TCGPlayer market price was $3.27 for the Duel Decks version with 14 copies available. The lowest price for a near mint copy on TCGPlayer was $3.46 plus shipping. The pricing graph on MTGGoldfish showed that the Duel Decks version had started to increase in price after the release of Throne of Eldraine. In addition, the card had a negative spread on buylists. When a card on MTGGoldfish has a negative spread, it is usually a good indicator for an arbitrage opportunity. I suspected this card was targeted for a buyout due to the low supply availability and erratic price movement. While checking for other Duel Decks copies on the Internet, I found 18 for sale on Amazon at $1.35 each ($1.40 after shipping). I immediately purchased all available copies and received 17 out of 18. The day after I purchased multiple Duel Decks copies of ZoZu on Amazon.com, the price on MTGGoldfish rose $0.07 to $3.28. I tried to sell some of my copies on Ebay as a set of four. The price I listed was $11.49 including free shipping. I was unable to sell them as a set, even after lowering my listed price to $11.00. Ultimately, I buylisted the copies for cash at $1.75 each. My net profit from the transaction was $5.95 for a 25% gain. The price for ZoZu on MTGGoldfish had risen to $4.00 by the time I sold out. While my purchase of the card may have driven the price higher, it is doubtful I was the only person buying copies. The supply availability still remained low at the end of January 2020. I believe one of the reasons why I was unable to sell sets of ZoZu on Ebay is because players predominately use one copy in decks. Buylisting the 17 copies was likely my best exit strategy from the beginning. I could have sold individual copies for around $2.75, but shipping and selling fees made this decision less appealing. When individual cards are bought out, there is not always enough demand to maintain an elevated price. When this happens, the price will continue falling over a period of time until it stabilizes. In addition, players may list their personal copies for sale to take advantage of the increased market price. These additional copies add new supply to the market. As an example, I sold a Jace, Vryn's Prodigy from Magic Origins for $36.00 after the Pioneer format was announced in October, 2019. Jace, Vyrn's Prodigy is currently priced at $28.49 on MTGGoldfish as of January 30th, 2020. The window of opportunity between a price spike and a subsequent decline can vary by the individual card buyout. There is risk in missing the window of opportunity to rake in a profit. In closing, here are a few examples of individual card buyouts and their price curves over time from MTGGoldfish. *The information in this article is of my own knowledge and opinion. It is meant for informational purposes only. I am not a registered financial professional or trying to act as one.*
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Comparing Potential Value Between Magic: The Gathering Booster Packs and Lottery ScratchOffs1/31/2020 Magic: The Gathering booster packs are sealed product that players open to obtain collectible trading cards. Booster packs contain a large spread of potential value when opened. Players often open sealed booster packs to find expensive chase cards. In a previous article on probabilities of Magic: The Gathering booster packs, I calculated the likelihood of opening a chase card. In addition, some players will open booster packs for a chance to receive a total value of cards that exceed the purchase price. This practice is often referred to as opening value. In a similar regard, individuals purchase lottery scratchoffs for a chance to receive a monetary amount greater than the purchase price. There are given odds to scratch a winning lottery card; however, those odds do not apply to all prizes available. A winning scratchoff could contain the value of the purchase price or a higher amount. This article compares the probabilities of opening value between a MTG booster pack and a winning scratchoff card. The overall objective is to determine which option has a higher probability of earning a return greater than the purchase price. The base assumption is that a MTG booster pack and scratchoff cost $3.00 USD to buy. The reason I am using $3.00 is because many hobby shops value booster packs at $3.00 in store credit when giving out prizes. Also, some hobby shops offer players promotional pricing of 3 Standard set booster packs for $10.00. Additional data on the calculated probabilities are available here. Estimated value calculations for the Bingo Extra scratchoff and Throne of Eldraine booster pack can be found in the data file. ScratchOff Probabilities The North Carolina Lottery has a $3.00 scratchoff game called Bingo Extra. This game has listed odds to scratch a winner at approximately 1 in 4. The top prize of $75,000 has approximate odds of 1 in 930,000. I am using this specific scratchoff game as an example because of the price per purchase and simplistic odds of winning. On December 11th, 2019, I recorded the remaining prizes available that were winners. In addition, I recorded the number of prizes remaining at or over $100. The specific information is available in the provided data document found above. The breakdown to win various amounts cash is as follows:
I would like to note that the percentages for $3.00 and over $3.00 equal 25.0% when added together. It appears that there is a higher percent chance to receive a value greater than $3.00 versus breaking even at $3.00. This is because the quantity of remaining prizes above $3.00 is greater than the availability of prizes at $3.00.
Comparing Potential Value of Magic: The Gathering Booster Packs and ScratchOffs To compare MTG booster packs and scratchoffs, I need to make a few additional assumptions. The opportunity cost is saving $3.00 by not buying either item. Second, the value pulled from a MTG booster pack assumes you can sell the cards at an average market price. Potential selling fees and shipping are excluded in this comparison. Third, the cost of a booster pack and scratchoff are the same. The variance in card value between MTG sets makes it challenging to provide an overall comparison. To simplify matters, I will compare scratchoffs to the Throne of Eldraine set as a representation of Standard booster packs. Using TCGPlayer MID pricing, Eldraine contains 9 mythic and 7 rare valued at $3.00 or higher (December 11th, 2019). The probability to pull a rare or mythic over $3.00 in a booster pack was 1 in 5.26 or 19.01%. When referencing TCGPlayer LOW pricing, the probability drops to 1 in 7.56 or 13.22%. These calculations do not include the chance to open a foil rare or mythic in a pack. The probabilities to open specific foil rare and mythic cards are very low and were excluded for simplicity. Recall that the Bingo Extra scratchoff game has given odds of 1 in 4 or 25%. The probability to break even on a scratchoff is higher than an Eldraine booster pack. In addition, the calculated probability to win over $3.00 on a scratchoff is 14.89%. This percentage is lower than the TCGPlayer MID pricing for Eldraine, but higher than the TCGPlayer LOW pricing. The preferred pricing method of a player may alter opinions of which option provides better value. My takeaway from this comparison is that scratchoffs may provide a higher probability than booster packs to at least break even. Scratchoffs also offer a larger potential payout with top prizes valued higher than any Standard set MTG card. On the other hand, booster packs may provide a higher probability to earn value above their purchase price. It also appears that the estimated values are similar between the Bingo Extra scratchoff and Throne of Eldraine booster pack. Whether you buy a scratchoff or booster pack, the probability to receive more in value than what was spent is relatively low. If you are uncomfortable buying scratchoffs, then you may want to avoid buying booster packs altogether. *The information in this article is of my own knowledge and opinion. It is meant for informational purposes only. I am not a registered financial professional or trying to act as one.* I recently participated in a Pioneer format event for the Magic: The Gathering card game. The prize payout for the event was one booster pack or $3.00 store credit per win. Multiple players asked for packs of Eldritch Moon as their prize for winning at least one match. I asked a few of them why they chose booster packs from Eldritch Moon. The players said they were trying to pull three valuable rare and mythic cards. The specific cards were Collective Brutality, Lilliana, and Emrakul. I watched as each player opened their packs and were disappointed with the cards found inside. While I knew the probability of opening either of the valuable cards were low, I was unsure of the exact percentage. If the players knew the probability for pulling one of the three cards in a booster pack, would they have chosen the $3.00 in store credit? In MTG, trading cards come in sealed booster packs. Each booster pack typically contains one rare or mythic card along with multiple uncommon and common rarity cards. Most new sets for MTG contain 15 mythic cards and 53 rare cards with differentiating abilities. The given probability of opening a mythic card in one booster pack is 1 in 8 or 12.50%. This means that the percentage of opening one rare in a booster pack is 7 in 8 or 87.50%. While these percentages refer to opening a mythic or rare card, they do not determine the probability of a specific mythic or rare. Additionally, the mythic and rare cards in each set vary in demand, playability, and monetary value on the secondary market. The calculations and data used in this article can be downloaded here. Determining Probabilities for Opening Specific Rare and Mythic Cards Calculating probabilities for opening specific rare and mythic cards is determined by how MTG cards are printed. According to Gamepedia’s MTG Wiki, current MTG cards are printed on 11 x 11 sheets. These sheets contain 121 cards. The rare and mythic cards for a set are printed together on one sheet. Print sheets contain one copy of each mythic and two copies of each rare in a set. Calculating the percentage of opening a specific mythic in a booster pack is simply 1 divided by 121 or 0.83%. Pulling a specific rare of out a booster pack is 2/121 or 1.65%. Each booster box of MTG cards typically contains 36 packs. Calculating the probability of opening a specific rare or mythic in a booster box combines 36 tries with the odds previously stated. The formula used to calculate pulling a specific mythic in a booster box (assuming 15 mythic and 53 rare cards) is. The calculated result is 1 in 3.87 booster boxes or 25.83%. I believe it is important to understand how often you are likely to pull a specific high value mythic when buying a sealed booster box. The formula for finding the probability of pulling a specific rare in a booster box is 1 in 2.21 booster boxes or 45.12%. Pulling a specific rare in one booster box is not guaranteed. Probabilities for Opening Value in Throne of Eldraine Throne of Eldraine, as well as other new Standard sets, typically contain 15 mythic and 53 rare cards. Not every mythic or rare in a set is valuable. There are usually chase cards that players want for a multitude of reasons. Using TCGPlayer MID pricing data from MTG Dawnglare on December 11th, 2019, I counted 9 mythic and 7 rare cards valued over $3.00. The probability of pulling a valuable mythic is 1 in 13.44 or a 7.44% chance. The probability for a valuable rare is 1 in 8.64 or 11.57%. The odds for pulling any valuable rare or mythic over $3.00 are 1 in 5.26 or 19.01% (23/121). To summarize, you have a 19.01% chance of pulling at least the value of a booster pack in the slot for a mythic or rare card in Throne of Eldraine. If you would rather use TCGPlayer LOW pricing to calculate the probabilities for pulling value in booster boxes, the number of mythic cards over $3.00 drop to 8 and the rare cards drop to 4. This means that the probability of pulling any valuable mythic or rare card in a Throne of Eldraine booster pack is 1 in 7.56 or 13.22% (16/121). Probabilities for Opening Value in Eldritch Moon The initial story in this article referred to a scenario of players opening Eldritch Moon booster packs. Eldritch Moon is a small set containing 14 mythic and 47 rare cards. Assuming these sheets were printed in the same method as Throne of Eldraine, the mythic and rare slot sheet would have a total of 121 cards. This means that 108 cards on the sheet are mythic or rare, with the remaining 13 slots containing filler cards. Because Gamepedia does not confirm the sheet’s rarity breakdown further, this logic will be used for probability calculations. Since Eldritch Moon is a small set, the probability of pulling a specific mythic or rare card in a booster pack is slightly better than Throne of Eldraine. The probability for pulling a specific mythic is 1 in 108 or 0.93% and a specific rare is 1 in 54 or 1.85%. Using TCG Player MID pricing, there are 7 mythic and 8 rare cards in the set worth over $3.00. I included Mind’s Dilation and Game Trail in this count. The probability for opening a valuable mythic is 1 in 15.42 or 6.48%. The probability opening a valuable rare is 1 in 6.75 or 14.81%. The probability for finding a valuable rare or mythic in a booster pack is 4.69 or 21.30% (23/108). Note that these percentages are better than Throne of Eldraine due to more valuable rare cards and the smaller size of the set. When using TCGPlayer LOW pricing, the percentages become worse. The probability for opening a value mythic is the same as TCGPlayer MID (including Mind’s Dilation); however, the probability of opening a valuable rare decreases. With only four rare cards valued over $3 using TCGPlayer LOW, the probability becomes 1 in 13.5 or 7.41%. The probability for pulling a valuable mythic or rare card is 13.89% (15/108). The Probability of Opening Collective Brutality, Emrakul, or Lilliana in an Eldritch Moon Booster Pack
We now have the information to calculate the probability of pulling Emrakul, Lilliana, or Collective Brutality. There are four total copies between the three cards on a print sheet. The probability of pulling one of these three cards in an Eldritch Moon booster back is 1 in 27 or 3.70% (4/108). To pull one of the cards in a booster box, the probability becomes 1 in 1.34 or 74.30%. If you had to choose between $3.00 in store credit or a 3.70% chance of pulling a chase card, which option would you pick? I would be curious to know if the players would still take an Eldritch Moon pack over $3.00 store credit after knowing these percentages. Many players at a Friday Night Magic event must make a similar decision between store credit and booster packs. I now know the choice per win is either $3.00 in store credit or a 19.03% chance on opening something more valuable from Throne of Eldraine. You may hear other players suggesting to always take store credit. Depending on the price of singles at a local game store, this recommendation is reasonable. I hope being more informed on the probabilities for pulling valuable cards helps you make better prize out decisions. *The information in this article is of my own knowledge and opinion. It is meant for informational purposes only. I am not a registered financial professional or trying to act as one.* 
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