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By: Cheater Hater, Vincent Borchardt
Apr 14 2017 12:00pm
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Welcome back to the—wait, this isn’t the Limited Review of Amonkhet! Yes, the accelerated schedule for Amonkhet on MTGO not only means that the set goes online faster (and I need to get out my limited review faster, since I want it up before the online release), but that the page detailing the events does as well. That normally would be a given, but it meant that the changes to Treasure Chests have been detailed as well. Even though it feels like I just did a Treasure Chest article (mostly since I dragged my feet on the chest-opening video), there are a lot of changes here, so let’s get started!
Almost 75% of the cards added are the Amonkhet Invocations, and while I’ve already talked about them from a design perspective, the price arithmetic on MTGO is also interesting. For instance, I mentioned Loyal Retainers as the highlight in paper, but on MTGO it’s the second-cheapest at 0.03 tickets (just above Spell Pierce). Conversely, Daze and Stifle join Force of Will and Containment Priest as the highlights of the package on MTGO due to their lack of availability (Daze being part of Masques block and Stifle not getting its Conspiracy reprint). Overall, the average price for an Amonkhet Invocation right now (taking the lowest in-stock price, and not counting the Gods) is 5.23 tickets, but that isn’t the whole story. As we saw in my chest-opening video, Masterpieces aren’t guaranteed value like in paper (and they seem volatile; going back to what I opened, my Trinisphere doubled in price while my Arcbound Ravager was cut in half), and as such the median of 2.03 tickets is relevant—yes, that means over half the time you open an Invocation you’ll lose money (at the average price of 2.5 tickets per chest I’ve used as a rule of thumb, though they’ve apparently increased to 2.7 tickets recently).
Other than the Invocations, there are some interesting additions to the curated card pool. First, there are a lot of Commander-specific cards, including a lot of Commander 2015 cards (via the Legendary Cube Prize Packs) such as the 31.66 ticket Meren of Clan Nel Toth, Commander 2013 cards like the 20.12 ticket Bane of Progress, and the first non-foil modern border Captain Sisay (via a nonfoil printing of the From the Vault: Legends version). There are some important Constructed additions too, such as the Pauper role-player Serene Heart (yes, I needed to look it up too) and Modern all-star Snow-Covered Mountain. There unfortunately are some duds (Gilded Lotus and Angel's Grace stand out among others), but as we’ll see, they need to get some duds in there.
Yes, this list looks bad at first glance, as any list that completely cut cards like Force of Will and Containment Priest would be. However, you have to look at them in context: these are being replaced by the Amonkhet Invocations. That means that all of these cards are actually having their frequencies increased, with the only exceptions being Careful Study (which needed to be trimmed regardless) and Counterbalance. After you sift out the Invocations, only six cards were removed, which include cards that were banned (Gitaxian Probe), cards that were obsoleted at lower rarity (Tendo Ice Bridge), and cards that had no place in a curated card list (Magus of the Moat, Font of Mythos).
Frequency Changes:

As you might expect, there are a lot of changes here, but they can fit into a couple large categories:

All of the Kaladesh Inventions were moved from 20 to 6. This isn’t great (the average Invention is worth 6.67 tickets), but like with the Invocations, the Median of 2.42 tickets means this change isn’t that bad in terms of getting above-average chests.

The trend of increasing access to dual lands continues, as the filterlands are all increased from 6 to 12. This isn’t nearly as great as is sounds as the value of filterlands varies wildly (Twilight Mire is 9.87 tickets, while Graven Cairns is 0.41 tickets), but again, this part isn’t necessarily for the enfranchised player, and dual lands are better than the average curated chaff.

Some of the MMA3 frequency decreases were reversed, as Blood Moon, Cavern of Souls, Grafdigger's Cage, Liliana of the Veil, and Tarmogoyf all moved up from 6 to 12.

All the “Power Nine” cards were moved from their exclusive 1 frequency to the standard 6, and while this is good for value (even Timetwister is 8.54 tickets), I’m worried about making these cards more common. The only reason I can see to do this is to make Vintage more accessible (hopefully getting the population high enough so WotC can start a Vintage League), but it’s certainly more risky.

The “Power Nine” aren’t the only high value cards being drastically increased: Wasteland moved from 20 to 40, while Rishadan Port increased from 12 to 25. This is crazy: adding 13 Rishadan Ports increases the value of the curated pool by over two thousand tickets (for comparison, the sum of all the Amonkhet Invocations only adds a little over three thousand tickets), while the various Wastelands added add another thousand. I get that WotC probably doesn’t want two lands that hate other lands to be the most valuable cards on MTGO (with one twice as expensive as Black Lotus), and they want to make the Treasure Chests more valuable, but I’m not sure trying to decrease prices on a massive scale is the right thing you want to do right before you introduce your new platform.

There are other frequency changes, but these are the typical changes that you would expect from a Treasure Chest update (cards like True-Name Nemesis, Gorilla Shaman, and Jace, Vryn's Prodigy moving up in frequency). One oddity is that other than the Kaladesh Inventions, no cards that weren’t removed decreased in frequency. 

Treasure Chest Slot Changes:

The depreciation of the Conspiracy/Commander slot in Treasure Chests continues, as the chances of getting one in each slot was halved from 4% to 2%. Most of the new cards are already near-worthless (and the Monarch cards still have a higher chance of being opened), but the important thing is where that 2% chance in each slot goes. In Slots 2 and 3 it goes to the Modern Rare/Mythic, which isn’t great (yet infinitely better than the Standard common/uncommon slot), but in Slot 1 it actually goes to the curated card, the first increase for that percentage in the history of Treasure Chests.

Overall Changes:

Overall a lot of cards were changed, but the total number of cards in the Curated pool didn’t change much: only 89 cards were net added. However, what did change is the total value of the curated pool: it increased by over 5,400 tickets. Yes, that is a lot: the curated pool is “only” 7854 cards, which means these changes increased the price of an average curated card by 0.69 tickets, and the average chest’s value increases by 0.19 tickets (though that will likely be even more since the chances of a curated card increased—I don’t have the time to do the full analysis of the curated card slot). That is a meaningful change (and will likely be higher if Invocations end up worth more than their normal counterparts, or if any of the Gods end up great in Standard), but I’m worried that it won’t mean much for the average chest opener. Most of the value is in the extreme high-end (Rishadan Port, Wasteland, Black Lotus, even medium things like Liliana of the Veil and Tarmogoyf). The more value is added to the high end the more likely you are to not “win” on any individual chest (either because more chaff is added or the price of chests increases). Ideally I’d want the chances of a curated card and the chances of a winning chest to be roughly equal (and it wasn’t that far off in my first opening video), but the more top-heavy the chest value is the harder it is for that to be practical. If you’re interested in more of the hard numbers I’ve put up the spreadsheet I made, which organizes the data from the article a lot more clearly and adds some more like price data and Masterpieces.

In conclusion, I’m very surprised about how much better the chests continue to get. I’m also interested in doing another 100 Chest opening article/video, but is there that much interest? I know my first article wasn’t received that well, but it was also very rough (and I got unlucky). Do people want to see me do this again, and if so, what should I change? That video was a lot of work (though a lot of it could be refined by process), and if no one cares, I’d rather not go through it again (like how I dropped the draft videos in the Modern Flashback Series). Regardless, next time you see me will be the Amonkhet limited review—hopefully I can get it up in a timely fashion.