One great way to practice recognizing value in any given Magic booster pack is to use a draft simulator to generate sample packs. I’ve personally used Mtgen.net, which is best known as a draft and sealed deck pack simulator So, if you have an itch to crack a pack just to see what you get, this is a good way to do that. While it’s great for evaluating cards to pick for your draft deck, it also helps train your eye to recognize value even in the worst booster packs you open.
Here’s a sample pack we’ve generated from Dominaria. Let’s see what we got.
Call the Cavalry
Gift of Growth
Champion of the Flame
Tatyova, Benthic Druid
The First Eruption
There’s also a basic Forest and an advert card. Not even a token!
Still, I like this pack… if we were drafting. Yes, The First Eruption is a bulk rare! Compared to the other Sagas in Dominaria, it’s pretty weak, though not useless Saga. But I really like some of the other cards in this pack. Tatyova, Benthic Druid is a pretty awesome Merfolk card. She is really good in EDH and could see real standard play at one point. Juggernaut is a classic card reprinted once again; sadly, it’s worth pennies. Champion of the Flame is a pretty sweet creature and is on some buylists for a nickel or so. Still, while these may be useful cards, you aren't going to get much in trade for them. Of the commons, Call the Cavalry and Broken Bond are rather good. Again, though, there’s not much trade value in these two cards.
How do we make the most of this disaster pack? There is at most a dollar of trade value, and that's being generous. While there’s close to $2 of retail value here, a lot of that is tied up in commons that we’ll never be able to sell. Let’s look at the TCGPlayer market prices to get an idea of what we actually have here.
Market Price (as of 5/29/2018)
The First Eruption $0.18
Tatyova, Benthic Druid $0.12
Champion of the Flame $0.06
Broken Bond $0.04
Short Sword $0.03
Arbor Armament $0.02
Call the Cavalry $0.02
Gift of Growth $0.02
Mesa Unicorn $0.02
Sparring Construct $0.02
Fervent Strike $0.01
Yuck. That’s a total market price of $0.60, give or take a penny…
Fortunately, there is hope for this pack yet! Not only are there cards useful in Limited or sealed deck, but some of these are useful in Constructed, as well.
The Good Cards in This Dominaria Booster Pack
No one’s playing The First Eruption, not yet. But this saga has some interesting abilities. It costs 2R to cast. The first part of the saga, which is when it enters the battlefield, deals 1 damage to each creature without flying. Properly timed, this is Shake the Foundations from Rivals of Ixalan without the card draw. The second part of the saga is to add two Red mana to your mana pool. That’s not bad. The third part allows you to sacrifice a Mountain, and if you do, deal 3 damage to each creature. The last part being optional is nice.
Honestly, this isn’t a terrible card, and it’s well designed. There’s a possibility that this card sees play at some point. Will it ever be more than $1? Probably not. It may never even reach $0.50 at retail. But as it sits, it has a little bit of sideboard potential, which isn’t useless at all. This is a good card to hold onto.
Tatyova, Benthic Druid is a cool Legendary Creature and you can build a cool Land-themed deck around her. If she were a rare, she’d probably be an easy $2 at some point. But as an uncommon, her price ceiling is not very high. Still, she may have trade value of $0.25 to even $0.50 or more if she really takes off in the format. She’s another hold.
Broken Bond is actually a pretty good common that already sees play in Modern. For 1G, you destroy target artifact or enchantment, then you may put a land card from your hand into play tapped. That’s pretty good value. While it doesn’t have much value at the moment, buylists often have this card listed, albeit for pennies. It’s yet another hold.
Champion of the Flame is a fun little creature that can get very powerful if you load enough auras and equipments onto it. You’d preferably want four copies of this card, and while there’s a bit of demand, you’re better off holding it.
Call the Cavalry isn’t exciting, but for 4 mana you make two 2/2 Knight creature tokens with vigilance, meaning they don’t tap when they attack. This will get played in some EDH decks and in casual Knight decks - which is a thing. It’s another good hold.
Juggernaut is a cool card and still sees some Kitchen Table Magic play. But it’s been reprinted into dust, so not much value here. The rest of the cards in this pack, while some might be useful, are essentially worthless.
The Actual Trade Value of this Dominaria Booster Pack: $0.90
Realistically, we have about $0.75 of trade value in the best three cards as the cards sit right now. We have a Saga that may or may not see Sideboard play after October 2018. There’s a Merfolk Legendary Creature that could pop up in some Standard midrange deck at some point and it’s OK in Commander. Then, there’s Broken Bond, which is a decent card that can fit into a lot of decks in Standard, Commander, and even Modern. These three cards we realistically can lock in at $0.25 each in trade value each. Champion of the Flame and Call the Cavalry may be worth $0.05 - $0.10 in trade value, but as has been the case with this pack, that’s generous. But it’s good to think optimistically!
If you used this as a seed pack for a Pack to Power challenge, it, this is probably not a good one to start from. It’s not impossible, though. If you trade the three best cards for a playset (four copies) of a playable Standard rare that’s low right now, but could be good after Standard rotation from say Ixalan, Rivals of Ixalan or Dominaria, you could make out here. Honestly, from a collection building standpoint, that’s worth the gamble whether or not you’re doing a pack to power challenge.
But if this is just a pack that you cracked for the fun of it, you’re more than welcome to just hold onto the three good cards in the pack. You may want to hold onto Champion of the Flame and Call the Cavalry as trade throw-ins, and throw the rest in your bulk pile to hopefully sell at $3-5 per thousand.
Through this exercise, we’ve seen the hard truth that there are going to be booster packs that are financial duds. But even in those, there are cards that are useful for our trade binder, low-end or not. Still, hopefully the next pack we crack for value is better!