xger's picture
By: xger, Xger
Jun 29 2016 11:00am
Login or register to post comments

Hover images for everyone! So, now you can see the Tempest Counterspell to compare to the Seventh Edition Counterspell. It also means that if someone writes a Goblin Machinistarticle, you can easily see what it is! Now, to Shards of Alara! Alara is the official return to multicolor, though a lot of players felt like Shadowmoor and Eventide were multicolor. However, that wasn't how Wizards meant it, but the players treated it as such. Time to examine the set! 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 Shards of Alara 6/29-7/6
Shards of Alara, Shards of Alara, Conflux 7/6-7/13
Shards of Alara, Conflux, Alara Reborn 7/13-7/20
Magic 2010 7/20-7/27
Break for Eldritch Moon 7/27-8/17

Wizards has updated the schedule, so these are confirmed dates (they've even included dates beyond what I have here).

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 very brief drafting advice and provide links to other articles from those better experienced. 

With that, let's get started:

Shards of Alara History and Background:

Shards of Alara is a world torn apart by the mana in the land. The land was once filled and rich with mana, until an unknown planeswalker destroyed the land to utilize the mana. The result is five shards, each of which can only access three types of mana. The five shards all developed extremely different worlds, largely based upon the center color of the shard. So, Bant was righteous and orderly, Esper was about research and technological advancement, Grixis was about death and self-advancement, Jund was about emotion and freedom, and Naya was about nature and prophecy. This week, I'll look at Bant and Esper.

Alara came with many changes. Alara is where Wizards shifted to the smaller set size, Alara being 249 cards. Alara also started the trend of at least one planeswalker per set, and brought multicolor planeswalker, such as Ajani Vengeant. It was the first set to include a basic land in place of a common. And then there's colored artifacts. Oh, and it brought the still-somewhat controversial mythic rares. We got gems like Godsire, Lich's Mirror, and Rafiq of the Many.

sarkhan volmarble chalicetezzeret the seeker

Bant is a very hierarchical society, and has five nations. Angels such as Empyrial Archangel are at the top, though the angels do not directly interfere, giving guidance only. Bant follows a rigid caste system, and the only way to escape the caste of birth is through a sigil, such as the Sigiled Paladin. Bant is the home of Elspeth, Knight-Errant.

Esper is a heavily artificed plane, where the inhabitants make use of the local etherium to improve themselves and lengthen their life span. People like the Etherium Sculptor are highly prized for their skills. Instinct is taboo, people like the Filigree Sages help shape the destiny of Esper's inhabitants. There is a group on Esper, the Ethersworn such as Ethersworn Canonist who study planeswalking and thus know that other planes exist, a rarity among Magic groups. This is Tezzeret the Seeker's home plane.

Alara came with 3 mechanics and two pseudo mechanics. Bant had Exalted; Waveskimmer Aven. Esper had colored artifacts; Sharuum the Hegemon. Grixis had Unearth; Sedris, the Traitor King. Jund had Devour; Predator Dragon. And, Naya had power 5 or greater mattering; Mayael the Anima. Two of those have come back (Exalted and colored artifacts), one has come back in a sense (power mattering), one is likely to come back (Unearth is essentially flashback for creatures) and one is not too likely to come back because of limited design space (Devour).

Alara had plenty of cycles due to the five shards. The four most important are: Panoramas (i.e. Naya Panorama); Trilands (i.e. Seaside Citadel); Charms (i.e. Jund Charm); and Ultimatums (i.e. Cruel Ultimatum). The lands are just very useful, whereas the charms and ultimatums try to really play up the shard.

In terms of MTGO, the client was still recovering from the rocky start. Redemption was still absent, and an update around this time put redemption months away at best. The CBSbot is considered malicious by Wizards, who stated they would not refund losses due to the bot. 

Of course, this is also when perhaps the biggest MTGO format change ever occurred. In December of 2008, Pauper is born. Pauper is still strong today and thrives with an environment all to itself. It has even spawned other sub-formats. Last, the first holiday celebration takes place.

Fiscal Value of the Flashback

Prices for the individual cards are from MTGOTraders sell price on Tuesday the 28th. Set trends are from MTG goldfish. 

Shards of Alara:

Top Mythics
Name Price
Ajani Vengeant $14.47
Elspeth, Knight-Errant $5.40
Tezzeret the Seeker $1.48
Sarkhan Vol $1.40
Rafiq of the Many $1.16
Top 10 Rares
Name Price
Knight of the White Orchid $4.59
Master of Etherium $3.82
Ranger of Eos $2.10
Ad Nauseam $1.65
Death Baron $1.23
Ethersworn Canonist $0.42
Mycoloth $0.13
Goblin Assault $0.09
Gather Specimens $0.06
Stoic Angel $0.03
Top Uncommons
Worthwhile Commons
Relic of Progenitus $0.14

We finally get to see what Mythics do to the value of cards on MTGO in a very direct sense. The previous sets had spreads for the rares. The average rare value is now an abysmal $0.28! This set is entirely about the mythic lottery, even getting one is nearly always better than a rare. It doesn't help that Alara has no uncommons of value and only one common of mediocre value. In short, only play this flashback is you like drafting it or are feeling super lucky.


These charts show the inflection points of the mythics and rares--here, between the 2nd and 3rd mythic and between the 6th and 7th rare. That means that 2 mythics and 6 rares in the set are priced higher than the averages ($1.92 and $0.28, respectively). The inflection point for the mythics seems pretty bad, but you have to consider that there are only 15 mythics, so roughly 14% of the mythics are above the average. Of course, that doesn't mean much if you don't crack Ajani Vengeant or Elspeth, Knight-Errant.

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). The same is applied for mythics. The blended rate below is 7/8 rare rate and 1/8 Mythic. I will probably continue to tinker with the blended rate.

Shards of Alara's Rare Lottery Rate: 92%

Shards of Alara's Mythic Lottery Rate: 73%

Shards of Alara's Blended Lottery Rate: 90%

Alara's rates seem rather bad, at least to the recent string of good rates. Alara also sets the bar for a set with mythics, so it'll be interesting to watch how other sets play out.

Set Trend Pack Value Average Draft Value
Despite the low value of the set, Alara has actually climbed about 25% since the announcement. $0.71 Normal Pack


$0.53 Without Commons $1.60
$0.51 Without Mythics $1.52

With mythics now in the mix, it seems more appropriate to consider what the pack value is without a mythic. One person has about a 33% chance of opening a mythic, whereas the draft pod has about a 4% of no one opening a mythic. What's interesting is that the mythic adds only slightly more than the commons, and this is a set with really bad common value.

Flashback Trends:

  Before Price After Price Percent Change Change Since Last Article
Eighth Edition $101.20 $108.81 7.5% -1.6%
Blood Moon $35.00 $33.22 -5.1% 5.6%
Mirrodin $94.90 $76.80 -19.1% 1.3%
Oblivion Stone $35.00 $15.55 -55.6% -0.4%
Darksteel $68.60 $63.10 -8.0% 3.0%
Aether Vial $5.60 $6.63 18.4% 2.6%
Fifth Dawn $106.00 $117.81 11.1% 6.6%
Serum Visions $2.80 $2.91 3.9% 29.9%
Champions $75.50 $57.77 -23.5% 0.8%
Sensei's Divining Top $3.50 $2.60 -25.7% 0.8%
Betrayers $63.20 $51.05 -19.2% 4.9%
Goryo's Vengeance $28.86 $16.61 -42.4% 3.7%
Saviors $61.10 $69.30 13.4% 1.6%
Oboro, Palace in the Clouds $15.50 $11.21 -27.7% 8.4%
Ninth Edition $102.40 $79.60 -22.3% -3.0%
Phyrexian Arena $5.20 $4.51 -13.3% 2.7%
Ravnica $78.20 $65.95 -15.7% 2.1%
Dark Confidant $12.59 $12.56 -0.2% 14.8%
Guildpact $41.60 $30.46 -26.8% 2.6%
Orzhov Pontiff $8.40 $3.25 -61.3% 14.0%
Dissension $74.50 $84.93 14.0% -5.3%
Infernal Tutor $36.66 $52.91 44.3% -5.5%
Coldsnap $74.70 $57.69 -22.8% -1.5%
Dark Depths $25.09 $20.00 -20.3% -1.9%
Time Spiral $44.90 $54.27 20.9% 2.7%
Ancestral Vision $21.01 $31.61 50.5% 6.3%
Planar Chaos $26.20 $24.60 -6.1% 10.3%
Damnation $14.32 $10.32 -27.9% 3.0%
Future Sight $203.60 $178.57 -12.3% -3.1%
Grove of the Burnwillows $39.02 $31.92 -18.2% -2.6%
Tenth Edition $104.40 $82.10 -21.4% 2.1%
Crucible of Worlds $25.77 $21.18 -17.8% 5.5%
Lorwyn $78.70 $54.69 -30.5% 9.0%
Thoughtseize $6.45 $5.97 -7.4% 5.1%
Morningtide $99.10 $81.23 -18.0% -1.0%
Scapeshift $30.16 $27.89 -7.5% -2.8%
Shadowmoor $108.40 $63.54 -41.4% -15.3%
Fulminator Mage $12.62 $11.38 -9.8% 6.2%
Eventide $118.00 $106.87 -9.4% N/A
Twilight Mire $15.90 $14.85 -6.6% N/A

The previous trends continue, with a number of sets continuing their slow climb. It seems entirely likely that most of the sets are in a more historically normal pattern, though I may analyze that in the future. Shadowmoor continued to fall, though not that bad, since it hasn't lost half of its value yet. Interestingly, Fulminator Mage is gaining, though that could entirely be from people just now picking them up when they previously waited.

The real hero story of this week is Serum Visions. Visions has finally risen above its pre-flashback value, and has crested decently above it. Only time will tell if this keeps up or if Visions will continue to seesaw.


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

  • Here's an article from draftbetter at PureMTGO.
  • Here's an article from LSV at Starcitygames.

My short advice for shards is to start with an ally pair and swing into the more open shard. It's also entirely possible to build strong two color decks which win on the consistency gained.

As always, I appreciate any comments! 


xger21 on MTGO.