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By: xger, Xger
Jan 13 2016 12:00pm

Darksteel is home to the most broken equipment ever made -- Skullclamp. The second quickest card to earn a ban (the first being Memory Jar. Darksteel also brought the "indestructible" keyword and the infamous Arcbound Ravager.

Introduction to the Article Series:

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:

Darksteel History and Background:

Darksteel is probably the single set closest to killing Magic. It came on the heels of Mirrodin and the affinity demon it created. Darksteel exasperated the problem with an assortment of cards:

arcbound ravageraether vialdarksteel citadelskullclamp

Affinity was almost manageable before Darksteel, but it quickly became a true menace afterward. It eventually resulted in several bans to contain it and stem the bleeding it created.

Skullclamp was its own special problem. While Darksteel was in testing, it was a far weaker card, to the point that R&D nearly universally disregarded it. Late in the development, it got changed, but most R&D members kept thinking it was terrible. By the time someone in R&D figured out just how busted it was, Darksteel was on the way to presses. Wizards hoped the players would find a meta game answer, but when that didn't happen, Wizards banned it as Fifth Dawn came out. 

Darksteel also was a casual players' paradise with the number of shinies it brought:

darksteel colossusdarksteel forgepulse of the forgedarksteel reactor

Darksteel also had severe MTGO problems, numerous bugs and server outages. Release leagues existed, but confidence in MTGO was probably near an all-time low. The release period was plague by chaotic outages and tournament failures. While players deplore some of the current MTGO problems, this was probably among the worst times for MTGO.

Fiscal Value of the Flashback

Prices for the individual cards are from MTGOTraders sell price on Tuesday morning the 12th. Set trends are from MTG goldfish.


Top 10 Rares
Name Price
Arcbound Ravager $9.23
Sword of Fire and Ice $7.60
Trinisphere $6.85
Serum Powder $6.77
Sword of Light and Shadow $4.64
Mycosynth Lattice $4.44
Reshape $3.23
Blinkmoth Nexus $2.00
Memnarch $1.02
Myr Matrix $0.80
Top 5 Uncommons
Name Price
Aether Vial $5.76
Genesis Chamber $1.11
Skullclamp $0.37
Oxidize $0.04
Dragon's Claw $0.04
Worthwhile Commons
Chittering Rats $1.29
Spire Golem $0.37
Echoing Decay $0.21

So, Darksteel is new in another way--it's the first flashback set without lottery rares. The rare value is tied up in several cards instead of focusing on one or two. A new part of my fiscal analysis will be trying to capture that:

This chart shows the inflection point of the rares--between the 9th and 10th highest rare. That means that 9 rares in the set are priced higher than the average rare, which lowers the lottery feel. Here, I'm introducing what I call the lottery rate of the set. If the lottery rate is 0%, then the set is in fiscal balance with half the rares more valuable than average. The closer to 100% the rate, the closer it is to a true lottery.

Darksteel's lottery rate: 33%

If people are interested in the math, I can add it in the comment or in future articles.

As for the predicted value, Darksteel is not going to be opened at near the rate and the value is much more evenly spread, so the effect should not be as great as the Mirrodin's crash. Aether Vial, however, is likely to get a hard crash as it is carrying nearly all the uncommon value and enough will enter the system to affect price, probably greatly.

Set Trend Pack Value Average Draft Value
Since the announcement, the set has dropped about 5%, though there was a short lived jump up $2.06 With Commons $3.92
$1.52 Without Commons $2.76
N/A Without lottery rares N/A

The above draft values are based on Mir-Mir-Dst. Mirrodin has crashed hard. The pack value has been more than halved, leaving Mirrodin at less than a buck in value--$0.93 to be exact. 

Flashback Trends:

  Before Price After Price Percent Change
8ed $101.20 $92.50 -8.6%
Blood Moon $35.00 $33.40 -4.6%
Mirrodin $94.90 $54.70 -42.4%
Oblivion Stone $35.00 $20.40 -41.7%
Glimmervoid $10.20 $6.80 -33.3%

So, Mirrodin has crashed hard, even without a full week of data. That is likely due to more play, as Mirrodin is a better format and, importantly, a better remembered format. Eighth has recovered some, which is a good long term sign. The long term trend of these drafts will be interesting to follow. I was clearly wrong about Oblivion Stone not crashing that bad. It is responsible for more than a third of Mirrodin's loss.

Draft Strategy:

My Take:

Since this is a small set with only one pack, the impact on the format isn't great, so I'll hit the highlights.

Auriok Glaivemaster is really good early with a cheap equipment and can seal a game quickly. Test of Faith is bas beats, so be wary of what it can do. Overall, white is probably better off in this format as it gets good creatures, good spells, and a solid removal spell in Purge--the anti-Terror


Blue doesn't get anything that stands out, except for Vedalken Engineer. Quicksilver Behemoth can be great in the right deck, but it has to be used correctly. Echoing Truth is the new blue removal, and works best against affinity that drops free creatures.
Black has arguably the best common in the set with Chittering Rats. Not only is it valuable, but it does wonders in limited. If you can get multiple or retrigger it, the opponent is put in a very hard spot. Screams from Within is very useful in a format filled with 1/1 mana creatures and various others and screams should be picked highly.
Red gets the better removal spells at common with Barbed Lightning and Echoing Ruin. Dismantle hits more than you might expect, so do not underestimate it. Sadly for red, outside of that there isn't as much. Though, the rares are quite bomby with things like Flamebreak, Savage Beating, and Pulse of the Forge.
Green continues the useful creature dominance, this time with Tangle Spider and Tel-Jilad Outrider. While there is little that is bomby in green, everything is solid except the gain life card, so green doesn't make out too bad in Darksteel. Oxidize is the dream in this format as it is the best artifact removal in the block.

Artifacts continue to be the main portion of the set. Here are some bullets again:

  • The Arcbound creatures are all generally good and give players a chance to both overthink and misplay.
  • Darksteel Pendant and Darksteel Ingot are the playable Darksteel cards. Darksteel Gargoyle works very well in certain decks.
  • Juggernaut is generally good.
  • Skullclamp is amazing. Extra cards and it gets creatures through.
  • The Golems with affinity for the various basics are all good, though Razor Golem is probably the best.

Since Darksteel is a small set with little impact, the information for drafting is mostly similar to Mirrodin or pick lists, so there isn't much useful for the one week of available drafting.


Big thing this week is--if you have Serum Visions, consider selling them soon before Fifth Dawn comes and crashes the price.

As always, feel free to comment!


xger21 on MTGO