What if Wizards of the Coast started printing Masters sets without actually telling us they were Masters sets?
There isn't a true Masters set on the 2021 schedule yet, but Time Spiral Remastered gave us reprints of Sliver Legion, Thoughtseize, Chalice of the Void, and more. That set contained dozens of sorely needed $10+ cards, presented in a brand-new context, with the Timeshifted sheet acting as a convenient excuse to bring back some of the most beloved spells in Magic history.
Now we've got a second secret Masters set hidden within Strixhaven: School of Mages. This has happened before, of course—who remembers Masterpieces?—but those cards showed up at the paltry rate of one in every two to three boxes. The Mystical Archive cards show up at a rate of one per booster pack, guaranteed, just like the Timeshifted cards in Time Spiral Remastered. This is unheard-of for a Standard-legal set with a large print run. The closest we've ever come was the original Timeshifted sheet way back in 2006; and most of those cards were bulk curiosities at the time of printing. These cards are very much not.
It seems that Wizards of the Coast is still iterating on the best way to sell their reprints. Well, if creating exciting subsets like this is their latest gambit, I like it. I was never a fan of the Masterpiece series since I have notoriously bad booster-cracking luck, so I'm all for a distribution model like "Masterpieces, but there's one in every pack." I'm also happy that these cards are going to be in Draft and Set Boosters, not just in the expensive Collector Boosters. Unlike previous subsets, the Mystical Archive is going to be a huge part of the Strixhaven experience for all of us, no matter which booster packs we choose to open.
That's why I wanted to give the Mystical Archive a separate financial set review. You're going to pull a lot of these cards, and you might not be sure what to do with them. Are they going to collapse in value like the original Time Spiral timeshifted cards? Surge in value like the Time Spiral Remastered timeshifted cards? Are they going to end up being as valuable as Masters set reprints, or as dirt cheap as most Standard cards? Will the Japanese cards end up holding as much value as the alternate-art planeswalkers from War of the Spark? Should you be selling any copies of these cards that you have now, before the set releases, or will this reprint end up being fairly inconsequential?
Whatever your question, I've got you covered. Today, we're using our library card and checking out Strixhaven's entire Mystical Archive.
There's no one simple equation that explains how valuable any given Magic card is going to be, but we can come close with "Quality + Scarcity = Value."
We're going to talk about the relative quality of each card a little bit later in this article, but for now let's look at how scarce these cards are actually going to be. After all, scarcity is the reason why cards on the Time Spiral Remastered timeshifted sheet are doing so well right now. Will these cards be just as scarce?
You'd think this would be easy to figure out, but it really isn't. There are so many different kinds of boosters these days, and so many different ways that this subset of cards is being distributed. This is the best collection of information I've been able to come up with:
What does all of this mean? Well, there are only 18 uncommon Mystical Archive cards in the whole set. A 36-pack booster box is going to have approximately 24 of these, so they're not going to be very scarce at all. My guess is that most of these cards will be incredibly easy to get and will simply end up mixed up with your bulk. I'm not going to spend much time on them in this article because I don't think they're going to be very financially relevant.
The rares and mythic rares are going to be a lot scarcer. The fact that there are fifteen Mystical Archive mythics showing up approximately half as often as any normal Strixhaven mythic means that these cards will be… well, roughly twice as scarce as any normal Strixhaven mythic. The same is more or less true of the rares. The actual numbers are slightly off, but "twice as rare" is a good enough heuristic for our purposes.
The existence of Collector Boosters is also going to help drive prices down. Remember: one of the big reasons why the Time Spiral Remastered cards popped off the way they did was the lack of Collector Boosters. The fact that you're guaranteed to get at least one foil rare or mythic Mystical Archive card in each Collector Booster is a pretty big deal, and you've got a 50% shot at getting a second one as well. Some of these cards will still command serious value, but we're not talking about hyper-scarcity here.
…except for non-foil Japanese Mystical Archive cards. These cards are going to be incredibly scarce. Think about it: you have 1:15 odds of opening a mythic Mystical Archive card, 1:15 odds of opening a specific mythic, and 1:2 odds that it'll have the Japanese art. That means that Demonic Tutor will show up roughly once every 450 packs, or 12.5 boxes. Those are long odds, especially since they have to be Japanese Set or Draft Booster boxes. Those are similar odds to the Japanese planeswalkers in War of the Spark, and that level of scarcity could lead to extreme price tags.
It's unclear how much that scarcity will matter, though. The Japanese War of the Spark cards were valuable in large part because you couldn't open them at all in non-Japanese packs. Since foil copies of these cards will be available in all Collector Boosters, my guess is that there will be something of a safety valve on the non-foil price.
Of course, if all the Collector Booster foils end up severely warped straight out of the pack like Commander Legends, the non-foils might retain some seriously high prices simply because they're the only playable Japanese versions at all.
What does all of this mean for you? First, don't worry too much about the uncommons, either in foil or non-foil. They are going to be incredibly easy to find. Opt, Duress, Negate, and Eliminate might hold a little value due to their power level in competitive play, and Cultivate will always be worth a little because of Commander, but we're talking about a buck or two at most.
Second, I expect the mythics and rares to be slightly scarcer than normal, Standard-legal mythics and rares. But we're not talking about scarcity on the level approaching Jumpstart, Time Spiral Remastered, or any given Masters set. The mythics might be harder to get than normal mythics, but these packs are still going to be widely available everywhere for months and months.
Third, it is quite likely that people are undervaluing the non-foil Japanese Mystical Archive cards right now. On eBay, an product-hover id="233496" sold for $250, while a product-hover id="233497" pre-sold for $190. The second card is going to be far rarer, and it should end up being worth more than the foil once people figure this out. If you're going to buy a high-end version of any of these cards, that's the one I'd go for. And I'd buy in soon, before people realize how much rarer the non-foil is than the foil version.
The opposite is true for the foil Japanese versions of these cards. People are looking at these cards and thinking about the War of the Spark planeswalkers, not realizing that they will be in Collector Boosters of all stripes. They are not going to be nearly as rare as the current market price implies.
These are the five cards that you want to open in your Mystical Archive. While there are a few other Mystical Archive cards that will be worth money simply because they're gorgeous variants of popular cards (more on that later), these are the only cards whose overall values are going to be affected by a significant reprint. Let's take a look at their price charts, shall we?
Here's a look at Demonic Tutor price tag since Ultimate Masters was released. I've only included the Mystery Booster and the Ultimate Masters version, since the Revised version has seen additional price increases due to the collector market that I didn't want to factor in:
As you can see, it hasn't taken long for Demonic Tutor to return to its pre-Ultimate Masters price tag. It's one of those true staples that will always have a lot of demand due to its status as one of the best cards in all of Commander, and I can't imagine this printing will be the one to permanently sink the price of Demonic Tutor. Heck, when Mystery Boosters came out, the price dropped to $20 for a single day before shooting right back up to $35+.
That makes Demonic Tutor a perfect pickup on Strixhaven release weekend. Even if you miss out on the absolute lowest price by a couple of days, you'll still be picking it up at a nice overall discount. My guess is that this card drops back below $40 again, but it won't stay there for more than a few months.
On the other hand, here's Tainted Pact from the start of 2018 through today:
Your eyes aren't playing tricks on you: this is really a sustained spike from $5 to $100 over the past few years. This is almost entirely due to the fact that Tainted Pact was only printed once, way back in Odyssey. This is the first time the card has ever been reprinted, and that usually leads to some major devaluation. My guess is that this new version of Tainted Pact will settle in between $15-$20, while the Odyssey version drops to $25 or so. I'm being incredibly patient here, and I suggest selling your existing copies of this card ASAP. Even if this new version ends up being worth $50-$60, which I highly doubt, you'll be happy you sold beforehand.
On the other hand, Natural Order has been reprinted, but it was way back in Eternal Masters. Here's its price chart from 2010 through today:
As you can see, Natural Order was on its way down before the Eternal Masters printing hit. It had already dropped from $35 down to $25, and then the reprint tanked it all the way down to a $10-$11 low. The price is back up to $35 again, but it took almost a decade. Demand is entirely different now, too: back when Natural Order was $35 the first time, it was due to Legacy play. Now it's nearly all Commander.
The reprint will hurt Natural Order price tag, but it probably won't drop all the way down to $10 again. Commander demand is more robust than Legacy demand, and its price should be a bit stickier now. I still don't think I'm picking this one up right away, but if the price drops below $15 I'm going to snag a set. Why not? Once a card has proven this level of reprint resilience once, it becomes a lot safer to predict a future rebound.
Speaking of resilience, take a look at Time Warp price chart since 2015:
There have been a few dips due to occasional small-scale reprints—Explorers of Ixalan, mostly—but Time Warp has been consistently in the $10-$20 range for a while now. This is likely because there hasn't been a significant reprint since Magic 2010, almost 12 years ago. My guess is that this new reprint will drop the price down into the $7-$10 range, where it will remain fairly stable. Time Warp is a very good Commander card, but the fact that it hasn't gained more ground over the past decade tells me that it's probably not going to immediately rebound here.
Lastly, we've got Teferi's Protection. Take a look:
Teferi's Protection has been reprinted twice since Commander 2017, but one was in the under-printed Mystery Boosters while the other was in a Secret Lair. Even still, we've yet to come close to meeting demand for this card, and it has shown quite a bit of resilience over its short life span. This will be the highest-profile reprint that the card has ever seen, and I do expect the price to come down somewhat, but I'm still putting Teferi's Protection right up there with Demonic Tutor on my list of staples I want to target on release weekend. Even though the price will come down, demand will be high enough that I expect it to rebound fast. It really is that good.
If you don't open those five cards, you might be hoping to open one of these 14. These are the other >$1 cards in the Mystical Archive, and they vary in price from $1.50 to about $5:
Some of these cards might hold a bit of extra value because there simply aren't that many other alternate versions to choose from. This is the first special variant for Inquisition of Kozilek, for example, and the first-ever reprinting of Mizzix's Mastery. On the other hand, we've got no shortage of special versions of Lightning Bolt or Swords to Plowshares to choose from, so I don't expect these to hold much of a premium over the other readily available versions.
Speaking of reprints, Abundant Harvest is actually getting a pre-print here in the old Mystical Archive. This is going to see its first normal printing in Modern Horizons 2, at which point the price of this version will tank. You can buy in now if you want, but know that additional copies are on their way in less than three months.
I don't think I'd be excited to pick up any of these cards on opening day, since I expect the prices to drop further from there, but I also don't expect the reprints to hurt the prices of any of these cards. An additional version of Swords to Plowshares isn't going to hurt the value of Swords to Plowshares, especially not at the rarity level of the Mystical Archive.
If you want any of these cards, either the Mystical Archive version or any of the currently-released variants, I'd look to buy in about a month after Strixhaven hits shelves. That would put you right about at May 15th. Set a Google Calendar Alert! Do it now, even!
While the Mystical Archive has a few $10+ cards, only 19 rares and mythics in the subset lack a currently available version for less than a buck. Meanwhile, more than half(!) of the rares and mythics in the Mystical Archive are already dirt cheap in some form.
Normally, this would be a recipe for a deeply unexciting set. In this case, though, a lot of these sub-$1 spells are actually incredibly cool. Here's the full list of Mystical Archive rares and mythics that have at least one version currently available for less than a buck:
There are some clunkers on this list—come on down, Urza's Rage—but there are also some absolutely killer spells. Dark Ritual, Counterspell, Brainstorm, Channel…these are among the most powerful cards ever printed. They're only cheap because WotC has printed many different versions of each over the years.
This list shows exactly what WotC is attempting to do with reprint subsets like the Mystical Archive. If this set were chock full of $10+ reprints, the Mystical Archive would pull focus from Strixhaven at large. By reprinting cheaper powerhouse cards like this instead, WotC doesn't commit a ton of value to this set while still giving players the excitement of opening powerful cards.
Unfortunately, this makes financial analysis a little more difficult. After all, cards like this can be worth $1 or $100 based on scarcity, art, age, and a dozen other factors. Consider the market price of every version of Brainstorm, in order from least expensive to most expensive:
This is a pretty wild list. While there are copies easily available for under a buck, a few high-end copies are worth more than $10, and the original set foil is worth a whopping $700. That's a heck of a range!
The Mystical Archive is bringing several more copies of Brainstorm, too. We're going to have non-foil, regular foil, and etched foil versions of both the global and the Japanese copy of this card once Strixhaven is released. That's so many different storms of brains!
What will each of the different versions of this card be worth? Well, there aren't any completed pre-order listings on eBay yet, so it's unclear where this card will begin its financial journey, much less where it will settle. Based on the data we have so far, my guess is that the cheaper versions will end up in the $3-$5 range while the premium versions will settle in between $10 and $50. That's still a pretty big gap, admittedly, but since the cheapest copy of the etched foil on TCGplayer right now is a whopping $150, I can safely say that I'm going to wait for this card to settle down before buying in.
I expect this to be a general rule for all of these cards. Remember: all of the above cards are already available for less than a buck, so any value they have over that is simply due to the "wow factor" of the Mystical Archive aesthetics, the cool Japanese alt-art treatment, or the etched foiling. You're paying almost entirely for the premium experience. That's it.
Quite frankly, I wouldn't be surprised if most Mystical Archive cards end up dropping in price a lot after set release. Right now, people are valuing them incredibly highly because they look like Masterpieces or Masters Set cards. They're not, though. There's one in every single Strixhaven booster pack, and two to three in each Collector Booster. They're cool, but ultimately not that rare.
In many ways, this is the reverse of my Time Spiral Remastered analysis. In that set, I took a look at the timeshifted cards and told you that they're way, way rarer than you think. In this set, I think the Mystical Archive cards are way less rare. That doesn't mean they're bad, or won't be worth a decent amount of money, but I cannot imagine that too many of them end up in the $50+ range. After all, if you want a cool version of Brainstorm for your Commander deck, you've got dozens to choose from for $10 or less right now.
Don't forget to sign up for my newsletter if you haven't done so yet! Not only do you get my trends pieces emailed directly to your inbox for free, but you gain exclusive access to all of my articles two full days before anybody else. It's a win/win/win!
This week, my newsletter covered a pair of Modern Horizons cards that have seen absurd spikes over the past week, a Reserved List staple that was bought out, and a Mirage card that spiked despite not being on the Reserved List at all. If you don't want to miss out next week, subscribe today!