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By: xger, Xger
May 05 2016 11:00am
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It's been an interesting few weeks in the Magic world. We had one of the more diverse Pro Tours in a long while and the new standard rotation is finally hitting its stride, producing a more dynamic standard! Of course, with that came the announcement that Modern would no longer be a Pro Tour format which might alter the landscape. It does remain a PTQ format, so hopefully Modern stays vibrant, both in play and in finances. Let's see what's happened! If you want to jump past the introduction, click here. To jump to the fiscal analysis, click here. 

Introduction to the Article Series:

To jump to the set background, click here. To jump to the fiscal analysis, click here.

Over the course of this year, Wizards will run flashback drafts that are from the Modern sets. One week for each format. The flashbacks will stop when there is a prerelease or release going on. More info here.

Here is the upcoming schedule:

Format Dates
Triple Time Spiral 5/4-5/11
Time Spiral, Time Spiral, Planar Chaos 5/11-5/18
Time Spiral, Planar Chaos, Future Sight 5/18-5/25
Tenth Edition 5/25-6/1
Triple Lorwyn* 6/1-6/8*
Lorwyn, Lorwyn, Morningtide* 6/8-6/15*

*These dates are my extrapolations. As of 5/3/16, I was unable to find confirmation that these are correct. The LLM draft is very possibly wrong, as Eternal Masters releases on MTGO on June 17, which might indicate pre-releases earlier that might preempt the flashback.

First, I will do a fiscal analysis. While a lot of players will play just for the fun of it, knowing what cards are worth something is a good plan. Since none of these formats are competitively valued anymore, there really is no reason to pass on a $30 card. Even if it is terrible and useless in limited. Further, knowing what common and uncommons are worth the effort to sell could be useful.

However, just a rote listing of pricing is only so helpful. A lot of the cards, particularly core sets and the older sets, just don't have the supply to adequately meet demand. That means some of the cards might tank quickly when there is a sudden surge of supply. Some of these sets have probably never had flashbacks, or it has been many years. That means the market reaction might be extreme or subtle. It is also unknown how many cards will enter the system—if the drafts are popular, the effect is greater.

To give the most useful information, I am going to track the value of the sets already given a flashback as well as the time just prior to the flashback. Hopefully this will give some idea of the fiscal value of the flashback draft. Of course, it is still going to be a lottery most of the time.

Second, I will give some brief drafting advice. This will come either from my own experience and memory (if I actively drafted the set) or from what articles I can dredge up. Likely, it will be both, but will probably lean more towards the articles.

With that, let's get started:

Time Spiral History and Background:

Time Spiral might be the set most driven by the needs of the creative team. Prior to Time Spiral, Magic's story was all over the place, and often characters did not continue from one block to the next. There were threads, and the Weatherlight Saga was a massive years-long arc, but it was still a bunch of isolated characters. Prior to Time Spiral there had only been four planes for 39 sets. Right now, we get around one new plane a year or two. This caused some problems with trying to get the players to care about the story, which is another method to bring in new players. So, that's why Time Spiral block is kind of a greatest hits of characters:

teferi, mage of zhalfirevil eye of urborgjaya ballard, task magesaffi eriksdotter

So, creative wanted to reboot everything and attempt to make the story make sense. To help this, Time Spiral includes many cards that are remakes or twists of classics: Ancestral Vision, Gauntlet of Power, and Yavimaya Dryad to name a few. It also meant that Wizards brought back an old fan favorite: Slivers!

opaline slivermight sliverpulmonic sliverpsionic sliver

Another method to bring the past to Time Spiral was a bit more blatant. The Timeshifted sheet was 121 cards from Magic's past, mostly story related, that came in Time Spiral boosters. Each pack had 1 "purple" rarity card in the place of a common, and each timeshifted card was equally common. That sheet is why Modern has cards like Darkness, Psionic Blast, and Call of the Herd. Because the cards are from the older sets, they came in the old frames. Further, the creatures were generally weaker (I'm looking at you Gaea's Liege) but the spells more powerful (mmm Dragonstorm).

akroma, angel of wrathlord of atlantisthe rackshadowmage infiltrator

On top of bringing back a ton of mechanics, Time Spiral introduced one of the most complex mechanics in Magic: suspend. It also allowed the printing of the first cards without a mana cost, such as Living End and Wheel of Fate. Suspend also created some combo decks, such as the aforementioned Living End or the Restore Balance/Greater Gargadon combo. While veteran players had little issue with the mechanic, it was difficult for new players and caused a lot of rules headaches.

living endrestore balancegreater gargadonancestral vision

Time Spiral also changed the way foils were handled. From introduction until then, foils replaced a same rarity card. Starting in Time Spiral, the foils always replaced a common, which paved the way for "three rare" packs--normal, foil, and timeshifted. Time Spiral was received very well by the entrenched players, but it was simply too much for newer players to handle, which is why there can be a wide range of experiences with the set. This is also where +1/+1 and -1/-1 counters finally cancelled each other out--previously you had to keep all of them on the creature!

The only notable thing that happened on MTGO was the booster price increase to $3.99, which happened a few weeks after the paper increase. This also means it has been nearly a decade since the price increase.

Fiscal Value of the Flashback

Prices for the individual cards are from MTGOTraders sell price on Tuesday the 3rd. Set trends are from MTG goldfish. 

Time Spiral:

Top 10 Rares
Name Price
Ancestral Vision $21.01
Living End $3.79
Vesuva $3.59
Academy Ruins $3.38
Lotus Bloom $0.98
Norin the Wary $0.90
Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir $0.75
Gauntlet of Power $0.75
Restore Balance $0.70
Gemstone Caverns $0.67
Top Timeshifted Cards
Pendelhaven $12.60
The Rack $11.01
Lord of Atlantis $7.97
Gemstone Mine $5.64
Serrated Arrows $3.34
Darkness $2.15
Wall of Roots $1.20
Top Uncommons
Might of Old Krosa $0.07
Smallpox $0.05
Krosan Grip $0.04
Harmonic Sliver $0.04
Undying Rage $0.03
Worthwhile Commons
Rift Bolt $0.24
Chromatic Star $0.18
Mogg War Marshal $0.06

There's no dressing this up, Time Spiral is abysmal financially, and because it is the first set in the block this is easily the worst set financially in the flash back series. Almost half the entire set's value comes in its single lottery rare. So, unless you are confident in your draft skills or particularly like this set, the value simply is not there. The only glimmer of hope is the timeshifted cards, but most of the value is weighted in those top few. Because there are 121 timeshifted cards, the odds of getting any particular one are pretty low. There's a nearly 1/4 chance that none of the timeshifted cards I listed will appear in an entire draft pod.


This chart shows the inflection point of the rares--here, between the 10th and 11th rares. That means that 10 rares in the set are priced higher than the average rare ($0.51), which is lowest yet, and more than half the average value is in Ancestral Vision. None of the other cards are really the type likely to break out and increase in value--Living End already did that years ago. The cards left are mainly niche cards for niche decks. 

A lottery rate of 0% will mean the set is balanced, and 100% will mean a single card accounting for ~70% of the rares total value (70% is an approximation of the percentage of drafts that will not have the top value rare).

Time Spiral's Lottery Rate: 95%

Not surprisingly, Time Spiral has the highest lottery rate (after adjusting previous rates to the current system) since so much is in a single card. There's about a 27% chance of one Ancestral Vision in a draft and less than a 1% chance of two, so good luck!

Set Trend Pack Value Average Draft Value
Time Spiral climbed for a while after the announcement, but dropped to the previous level in the last month. $1.18 With Commons $3.53
$0.97 Without Commons $2.93
$0.59 Without lottery rares $1.78

It's startling that nearly a quarter of the expected pack value comes from a single card. If you exclude commons and Ancestral Vision and the top timeshifted cards, the entire draft set is worth less than two bucks. So, in case you missed it, this set is really bad fiscally.

Flashback Trends:

  Before Price After Price Percent Change Change Since Last Article
Eighth Edition $101.20 $92.28 -8.8% -16.2%
Blood Moon $35.00 $22.21 -36.5% -13.0%
Mirrodin $94.90 $57.92 -39.0% -20.5%
Oblivion Stone $35.00 $15.96 -54.4% -18.4%
Darksteel $68.60 $51.85 -24.4% -13.9%
Aether Vial $5.60 $6.74 20.4% 36.7%
Fifth Dawn $106.00 $103.25 -2.6% 2.7%
Serum Visions $2.80 $2.14 -23.6% -23.0%
Champions $75.50 $47.56 -37.0% -20.5%
Sensei's Divining Top $3.50 $2.53 -27.7% -33.8%
Betrayers $63.20 $42.06 -33.4% -18.4%
Goryo's Vengeance $28.86 $15.75 -45.4% -17.5%
Saviors $61.10 $58.92 -3.6% -3.4%
Oboro, Palace in the Clouds $15.50 $8.68 -44.0% -13.7%
Ninth Edition $102.40 $64.83 -36.7% -13.6%
Adarkar Wastes $12.96 $1.11 -91.4% -72.9%
Ravnica $78.20 $52.64 -32.7% -1.0%
Dark Confidant $12.59 $10.13 -19.5% -6.4%
Guildpact $41.60 $26.92 -35.3% -3.9%
Orzhov Pontiff $8.40 $4.42 -47.4% 2.3%
Dissension $74.50 $58.95 -20.9% -5.7%
Infernal Tutor $36.66 $32.21 -12.1% 18.2%
Coldsnap $74.70 $37.20 -50.2% N/A
Dark Depths $25.09 $13.49 -46.2% N/A

Lots to discuss this week. First, some of the factors affecting prices. The release of a set is generally going to lower prices as players sell old cards to play in the prereleases. Shadows over Innistrad is a return to one of the most popular planes and the most popular recently created planes, so there was probably an uptick in play, which would mean more selling off. Next, standard is now fully in the two-set three-block rotation, so players are likely playing more standard. Further, this standard is quite diverse and getting reviews much better than recent standards. Last, there is dropping Modern as a Pro Tour format. I think the effect here came more from fears that Modern will be slowly strangled than the loss of the PT. There is still a PTQ season for the time being, but losing support is not promising from a psychological standpoint.

Some of the individual players are interesting. Adarkar Wastes actually seems to be the result of a spike I failed to notice previously. Its current price is more in line with its historical price. I will probably swap it out next week for another 9th card. Serum Visions fell while the rest of Fifth Dawn rose. My guess is that this is because of the changes to Modern. Storm was probably among the big factors in visions' price, and with Modern going more causal, a spikey deck like storm is going to lose some players. The only other big outlier is Sensei's Divining Top, but I really have no idea what is changing its price, other than the possibility of an Eternal Masters reprint.

So, I'm considering reworking this section a little. The list is getting long, and giving a giant table by itself is not really the most effective. As such, if you have any suggestions on how to improve this section, let me know!


Don't forget to look at articles here on PureMTGO. Here is a search link for Time Spiral articles. Old articles on the draft format: 

  • Here's an article from TCG Player by Terry Soh
  • Here's an article from SCG by Paul Jordan

So, triple Time Spiral is quite a throwback, so keep a look out for synergies and combos hidden away!

As always, I appreciate any comments! I just wrapped up 2L law school finals, so I should be able to crack the card pop-up rubix cube soon!


xger21 on MTGO.