When buying booster packs, I always wonder which one I should by this time, and I often pick randomly (or for superficial reasons). However, it must be that some sets have more useful, valuable or expensive cards than others (which is often determined by players after the cards have been released), and all of these being more likely to be found than others in a booster pack.

My question is in fact a few inter-related questions. Is there a way to determine the likelihood of obtaining individual cards in a booster pack? If so, based on average card prices, is it possible to determine what packs should yield statistically better cards? Has anyone ever done this before?

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    See this question for the distribution of rarities. (Some past sets have different distributions, but I expect you're going to be buying more recent things.) If you combine that with a list of card prices, you could certainly calculate the expected value of a booster pack. (But the value of the cards will be less than the pack, and you won't be able to personally sell them all at the prices you see resellers asking.) – Cascabel Oct 29 '13 at 2:26
  • Look up the costs of buying boosters from each set online. The sets with the highest expected card pull values (hint: Worldwake and Future Sight) have their booster costs increased accordingly (and always so that you won't make a profit in the long run). – jwodder Oct 29 '13 at 2:28
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    Also note that a card's value is subject to change (especially for in-print sets) as new sets are released, old sets fall out of the various formats, and decks enter or leave the meta for whatever reason. – Hackworth Oct 29 '13 at 8:05

You're thinking about this as if you are buying packs to sell the cards, but are you really buying packs to play with the cards? Unless you are likely to immediately sell the rare cards out of your pack, picking ones based on the current selling price is pretty much meaningless. If you're buying to play with the cards, it would make a lot more sense to think about cards that you are interested in adding to your play collection, and then buy the set that gives you the best chance of getting those cards.

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Different sets definitely have different average booster values, and you can calculate the current value of opening a booster relatively easily. You have a 1/8 chance of a mythic, and a 7/8 chance of a rare, so you need the average rare price (ARP) and the average mythic price (AMP). These values may not be directly available, but are trivial (if time consuming) to calculate.

With those values, you can work it out as follows: (((ARP) / 8) * 7) + ((AMP) / 8).

This might give slightly too high a value as you cant get a rare AND a mythic in a pack, but it gives a reasonable representation.

For more accuracy, you can also factor in the value of a foil (the chance of a foil I believe is 1 in 7 packs, the probability of any individual foil I believe is 1 in the number of cards in the set, however both of those may be incorrect, I'm sure someone else can correct that).

The average value of the uncommons can be factored in (you get 3 in a pack) and if you REALLY want, the average price of a common also.

all of this can give you an estimate, but for someone buying boosters its of little use. Its valuable for vendors to calculate these values as they can figure out how to value buying and opening boosters to sell singles, but only because they can open large supplies of product to realize these averages. An individual will not be able to buy enough.

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    Actually, mathematically there's no added complication to be had - since each uncommon is still equally likely, the 'decrease' in EV from not being able to have e.g. multiple Wastelands in a pack is precisely made up for by an 'increase' in EV from not being able to have multiple Excavators. You can still just take (average price of an uncommon) x (number of uncommons). – Steven Stadnicki Oct 29 '13 at 15:27
  • For what it's worth, you can get a general idea about the prices from a site that sells singles. For example, if you do this with the Theros price table from tcgplayer, the low prices (presumably the ones people are actually managing to sell the cards for) give an average booster pack resale value of $3. But to get that, you have to actually sell all the cards, dealing with shipping, and so on. – Cascabel Oct 29 '13 at 18:57

Are you planning on selling the cards after you open them? If not then the real value is which set do you enjoy more than another.

I've been playing for many years and for me I enjoy the new sets and the new cards just because they are new -- however, objectively opening a current pack will always contain less $$ value than opening a pack of beta.

On the other hand, I'd never play with the cards from a pack of beta, I'd sell them! So I would get no play value from the beta pack.

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