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By: Cheater Hater, Vincent Borchardt
Sep 26 2017 12:00pm
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Welcome back to the (mostly) quarterly Treasure Chest Update! This is the first full-fledged TC Update in a while, since Hour of Devastation’s changes were relatively minor. Not so this time: even without new Masterpieces to spur an update (expect them in Dominaria though), there are a lot of changes to work through. I’ll even spoil the big headline here (that I mentioned at the end of last week’s article): there are 1,337 fewer cards in the curated list this time, the first net decline since I started doing these articles. What does that mean for the value of the curated list though? We’ll get to that, but first we have an important change in the structure of the chests themselves.
Treasure Chest Slot Distribution Changes:
This was a big surprise from my perspective: they eliminated the Conspiracy/Commander 2016 slot from the chests themselves. I was assuming they were going to make that change when they added the Commander 2017 cards, as that might have instituted a new “set” to put the cards in (remember, the Monarch cards were added to PZ2). It’s not that big of a change overall, as it’s only redistributing 6% at this point (strangely the master Treasure Chest page was never updated for the drop from 4% in each slot to 2%), and the odds were split decently—the individual numbers for each slot were adjusted slightly during the upheaval (beyond redistributing the 2% in each slot), but the net change is that the net curated cards per chest increased by 0.025 (27% → 29.5%), net Modern rare/mythics by 0.02 (64 → 66%) and net Standard commons/uncommons by 0.015 (173% → 174.5%). The one negative is that there is currently no way to open the “bad” PZ2 cards in a pack, but most of the important ones have been accounted for in the curated list: Leovold, Emissary of Trest was bumped up from 6 to 12, Ash Barrens was added at a frequency of 25, and cards like Recruiter of the Guard and Queen Marchesa are still in the list (though others like Palace Jailer and the non-(Atraxa, Praetors' Voice) were lessened or removed entirely. I do think they need to do a bit more: Sanctum Prelate probably needs to join its friend Recruiter of the Guard, and the pair of common Monarchs (Palace Sentinels and Thorn of the Black Rose) need more supply. Now to the many curated card changes!
Curated Additions:
The headliner here is that there are eight new promos entering the curated list (Chains of Mephistopheles, Copy Artifact, Cuombajj Witches, Elvish Spirit Guide, Gauntlet of Might, Helm of Obedience, Stasis, and Transmute Artifact), and these were hyped enough to get their own mini preview season (note that the foil versions will show up in the promo packs, while only non-foils will be in the Treasure Chests). There is good reason to be excited, as these are all relatively expensive cards (Cuombajj Witches is the cheapest at 1.91 tickets, while Helm of Obedience is the most expensive at 21.87 tickets) and each is showing up at a frequency of 20 (the same as a fresh Masterpiece). While I’m surprised they put so much effort in cards that most likely never leave digital (other than Elvish Spirit Guide, the others are all either cheap due to multiple printings or on the Reserve List), but it’s nice that they’re doing something for MTGO. We’ve also seen that putting a promo in the Treasure Chests can tank the price of that card while keeping the price of the original intact (most blatantly with Rishadan Port—more on that in a bit), so don’t expect these prices to hold up for long.
Other than the new promos, there are a lot of good additions to the curated list. On the competitive side, we’re seeing a lot cards for Modern (Chalice of the Void, Chameleon Colossus, Surgical Extraction), Legacy (Fluctuator, Aluren), Pauper (Fireblast, Exhume), and even 1v1 Commander (Mystic Confluence, Oloro, Ageless Ascetic). Moving to casual, we’re rotating through expensive Commander cards, with a focus on Commander 2013’s commanders (Gahiji, Honored One, Roon of the Hidden Realm among others), various things from the Legendary Cube Prize Packs (Mizzix's Mastery, Titania, Protector of Argoth), and Planechase 2012 (Sakashima's Student, Felidar Umbra). Other than that, we have some expensive cards that I have no clue where they are being played (I didn’t even know Keldon Firebombers was a card, and I made a Mercadian Masques Remastered set) and the odd reprint that makes no sense (who was demanding the From the Vault: Lore version of Helvault?) or contradicts what we know is coming (Thundermaw Hellkite and Oblivion Stone, even though both are confirmed for Iconic Masters), but overall things are very good.
Curated Removals:
Time to take out the trash! When so many cards are removed it may look like the Treasure Chests are full of crap overall, but this is actually telling a compelling story. Where the Treasure Chests have the most impact is where demand is low but supply is ultra-low. Just look at the price charts for Bane of Progress and From the Ashes, two Commander-focused cards that were only available in the Commander 2013 decks: you can see the steep decline once it was introduced to the curated list, as a card that topped 35 tickets fell to the 2.63 tickets it’s at today (which is an increase from when it dipped under 0.3 tickets). This is good for people who wants those cards, but in a way it’s proving the point of people who didn’t like Treasure Chests: this is financing Constructed prizes at the expense of people’s collections. However, as I said, this is mostly happening with cards where supply is low (cards from the Commander decks, Masques block and the Masters Edition sets) or cards in the 25-40 frequency range (mostly commons/uncommons from the original batch of curated cards) which is a net good thing. Conversely, we haven’t seen this type of price movement on the staple Modern cards, and most Standard cards are kept out of the rotation (though it feels like Kaladesh showed up a little early). The calculus of MTGO Finance is very complex (especially when MTG Arena shows up next year), but if nothing else, it shows that Treasure Chests have had a real impact.
Not all of the cards were crushed to nothing—some have maintained their value and are being removed for other reasons. Some are being reprinted in Iconic Masters (Archangel of Thune, Auriok Champion, Mind Stone), some had legality changes push them down (Aetherworks Marvel, Thorn of Amethyst), and others were always low-quality cards in the rotation that were barely worth the price of a chest at the top of their charts (Voidslime, Vault of the Archangel, Clever Impersonator—wait, why the heck is that foil 93 tickets? Redemption is over, right?). Some good cards were left out as well (Fulminator Mage, Craterhoof Behemoth), but the sheer number of worthless cards removed (788 total, even after removing only 79 unique cards—a lot were 40 and 25 frequency cards) more than makes up for it.
Curated Frequency Increases:
Only 34 cards had their frequencies increased (plus 3 duplicate versions of cards), but WotC is making the most of them (with the exception of Tariel, Reckoner of Souls and (Magistrate’s Scepter)—it feels like they should have been removed rather than increased). All of the remaining upgraded cards are important Constructed cards, and include some of the most expensive cards in the game currently (Exploration, Dark Depths, Liliana of the Veil). The one strange thing is that multiple Iconic Masters cards were increased (Primeval Titan, Grove of the Burnwillows, multiple versions of Aether Vial)—I get that there are still two months until its online release and these cards are still worth opening (and probably will be after Iconic Masters’s run), but you’re probably going to decrease them at that point, and you’re already changing a ton of cards in this batch—why overwhelm people trying to understand the changes?
Curated Frequency Decreases:
Obviously the biggest change is all of the Invocations going from a frequency of 20 to 6, which makes this a good time to check in on how they’re doing, after being widely panned in both look and quality. Yes, losing copies of Force of Will and Blood Moon is bad, but the mean is just 3.8 tickets. However, the real story is the median, which is a lowly 1.01 tickets (between Counterbalance and Slaughter Pact, which means half of the Invocations are below a ticket. Overall, removing the majority of the Invocations from the curated pool is a very good move.
As for the non-Invocation decreases, it’s the biggest category, so they’re all over the map. Many of the trends we’ve already seen are present (Monastery Mentor was restricted, other casual cards were reprinted into dust, high frequencies like Chittering Rats were toned down), but the main story is Rishadan Port going from 25 to 12. However, this isn’t the whole story—this is the promo version (the one that’s 42.61) and it’s being partially compensated by the original Rishadan Port (worth 143.81) being added at a frequency of 6, which actually is a net increase of value by over 300 tickets (it’s just more top-heavy). More important decreases include Wasteland (losing 10 frequency over three printings) and True-Name Nemesis (dropping from 12 to 6 in one of the more surprising changes) And of course, some future Iconic Masters had their frequencies reduced (River of Tears, Windfall), so it can finish the quadfecta of appearing on all four lists—I have no idea what their plan is.
Overall Value Change:
Since I’ve already spoiled that the total number of cards dropped by 1,337, you must be wondering how much the drop in the total value of the pool was. That’s the craziest part though: the value actually increased by 5,298.98 tickets! By my count there are 7,002 cards in the curated card list after the Ixalan update (starting from the Hour of Devastation list and subtracting the net changes), which means the value of the average card in the curated list increased by 0.76 tickets. That seems relatively low, but using a mean here is imprecise: a meaningful number of cards aren’t even worth that amount, so a lot of that value goes into the expensive cards. As we know from my experiment a while back, you aren’t always going to get lucky, and you’ll get most of the average value from chests via high-profile hits (notable curated cards, large Play Point amounts, or an amazing Modern rare/mythic). I still want to do the full list eventually, but it’s a lot of things to look up: right now the HOU list has 837 entries, and IXN has 46 additions and 79 removals, so it’s still 804 cards to look up—yes, I did 210 of the entries for this update (289 total counting the removals), but I don’t particularly want to do that three times over (plus integrating the totals into the list).
The other important part is the changes to the chests themselves, and it’s clearly good. Yes, losing the Conspiracy/Commander slot seems like it would hurt, but I actually think it’s a decent change. After Leovold there wasn’t much else (Ash Barrens and a couple Monarch cards) and there was a lot of complete garbage. Instead you have curated cards (obviously great), Modern rares/mythics (more and better hits, and the garbage is slightly easier to bulk out), and Standard commons/uncommons. That last option seems really bad, but it’s better than you’d think, especially now that Fatal Push, Abrade, Aether Hub, and the Planeswalker deck cards are a higher proportion of the pool (even the Planeswalker deck cards you wouldn’t think of like the taplands are worth much more than the average common, since you can only get them through a store purchase or Treasure Chests). Overall while I still can’t recommend buying chests unless you get a large amount and/or are willing to stomach the variance (and attach a lot of the value to your account), they are really a good idea right now, especially since it doesn’t seem like most people have realized what’s happening (prices appear to have moved slightly, but MTGGoldfish doesn’t appear to have updated price charts on the chests). I still think in the abstract chests are being undervalued slightly, but calculating the expected value of any one chest is difficult (mostly the Modern rare/mythic slot; there are almost four thousand options, around five times the number of cards on the curated list).
This was an interesting Treasure Chest Update to write, even if it was a lot of work. Hopefully someone appreciates it, even if it is a lot of math that’s hard to translate into actual numbers. Next week will be a grab bag article on various reprint sets: Iconic Masters, Masters 25, and even From the Vault: Transform.
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Apparently I don't need to do by Cheater Hater at Tue, 09/26/2017 - 19:33
Cheater Hater's picture

Apparently I don't need to do all the work, since GoatBots have done it for us. Granted, I don't see their work anywhere, but their numbers seem reasonable:
Treasure Chest EV (2.45)

Type EV
Curated Card 4.63
Modern R/M 0.49
Play Points 2.48
Standard C/U 0.0083

Slot EV
#1 2.00
#2 0.36
#3 0.093

In fact, according to their prices Treasure Chests are plus-EV right now (assuming you use the Play Points). You obviously shouldn't buy them based on that (the price has already risen about 0.1 tickets since the update, and it'll probably go up more, and there is still a lot of variance), but it's very interesting, and confirms my hypothesis.