Last updated on November 27, 2023
Booster Tutor | Illustration by Heather Hudson
We love cracking packs. We love it so much we'll watch other people crack packs. Even if those packs are Ixalan. But what do we do with those packs that we crack?
In Mark Rosewater’s article that introduced the set booster, his question was “How does one make opening a booster more fun?” It's hard to say if they lived up to that promise, but they certainly made an impact.
What's a Set Booster? What's the Purpose?
Go-Shintai of Shared Purpose | Illustration by Johannes Voss
Set boosters were designed to be an exciting product to open without being drafted. Rosewater noted that the majority of draft boosters weren't used for Draft when the set boosters were created in 2020 with Zendikar Rising. Draft boosters, meanwhile, were curated specifically for the Draft experience, where the number of slots for commons, uncommons, rares, mythics, and lands is dictated by optimizing a game of Limited.
But if Limited considerations are put aside, what would stay the same and what awesome stuff could be added? One of the pleasures of cracking packs is finding that chase mythic. What if you could find even more powerful and unexpected stuff?
What Comes in a Set Booster?
There are 14 cards in a set booster. The template below was laid out for their first appearance in Zendikar Rising. Sets to follow adjusted these to be able to offer experiences tailored to the theme and design of the sets, but each of those changes riffs on this basic structure:
- Slot 1 is an art card with a 5% chance of one with the artist’s gold signature.
- Slot 2 is a land, possibly as a foil.
- Slots 3-8 are six commons and uncommons connected in some way, like a shared creature type. These slots are adjusted for different sets, with a Mystical Archive and lesson card in here for Strixhaven and a double-sided card from Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty.
- Slot 9 is the first “head turner” slot with either special borders, alternate art, or something else of the sort. Pre-Kaldheim it was usually a visually distinct common or uncommon. After Kaldheim it became possible for this slot to have a rare or mythic.
- Slots 10-11 are “wild cards” at any level of rarity, and cards from Commander decks started showing up as a possibility with Midnight Hunt.
- Slot 12 is a rare or mythic.
- Slot 13 is a foil at any rarity.
- Slot 14 is a token or marketing card. This is a card from The List 25% of the time.
The composition of set boosters shifts in various ways from set to set, so let’s rank from best to worst, set boosters by set. This ranking will take into account those differences as well as the desirability of the set itself.
#9. D&D: Adventures in the Forgotten Realms
Not only was Forgotten Realms a lower powered replacement for a core set, two of its signature mechanics, venture into the dungeon and roll a d20, were a bit of a whiff. There are some powerful cards in the Forgotten Realms set boosters, including bombs like Lolth, Spider Queen, Tiamat, and of course the cycle of creature lands. But the suite of commons and uncommons definitely seems underpowered.
The alternate art options here include the possibility of the rulebook or module variants, which are quite popular, but I’ve got a lot of rulebook uncommons floating around that can’t find a home in a deck.
#8. Zendikar Rising
Zendikar Rising's were the first set boosters, but thus far there seems to be little indication that keeping this for the long term as sealed product will retain any more value than any other Zendikar Rising product. And that value seems only as good as the set, which was underwhelming.
The most valuable cards are the mythic modal double-faced cards like Agadeem's Awakening. But there isn’t a dedicated slot for double-faced cards in these boosters unlike in the sets that followed.
- Magic The Gathering Zendikar Rising Set Booster Pack
- A new way of experiencing Booster openings, featuring cards from Zendikar Rising.
- Each booster follows a path as you open it.
- 1 in 4 Set Boosters includes a card from "The List"—a pool of reprints.
#7. Strixhaven: School of Mages
The head turner slots in the Strixhaven set boosters were filled with a Mystical Archive card and a lesson card. There are no special slots for the double-faced cards in the set. For a set whose uncommon utility cards like Expressive Iteration have fared better than signature rares, perhaps this isn’t always going to be rewarding to open?
The flavor of this magical school set is fun, but it definitely wasn’t everyone’s cup of tea. The learn/lesson mechanic can’t be used the way you’d like in Commander, which limits this Strixhaven’s appeal as it closes in on passing out of Standard.
#6. Streets of New Capenna
Less popular than Kamigawa, New Capenna finished the tri-land cycle from Ikoria. There are lots of 3-color bombs like Jetmir, Nexus of Revels that will likely become key Commander staples, and a few cards like Ledger Shredder on their way to multi-format all-star status. There’s also the typical alternate art spot, and the land slot has about a 50% chance of a special art land.
The New Capenna set boosters have shifted the chance for cards from The List to make room for the in-universe versions of Secret Lair X Stranger Things cards like Arvinox, the Mind Flail. One in eight New Capenna set boosters will have one of these cards, and another one in eight will have a List card.
If you’re a diehard Stranger Things fan who missed the Secret Lair and wants to pull these from boosters, I guess this is your moment.
- 12 Magic: The Gathering cards per booster
- Best MTG booster to open just for fun
- 1–4 cards of rarity Rare or higher in every SNC Set Booster
- Traditional or Gilded Foil card in every pack
- At least 1 Showcase card in every pack
#5. Innistrad: Midnight Hunt
WotC put some effort into reimagining set boosters with Midnight Hunt. This was the first set to add Commander cards as an option in the wild card slots. It included not only the face commanders of the precons but also some set booster-exclusive EDH cards, like the underplayed Visions of Dominance.
This set’s land slot is an eternal night-style full-art land, and I have a bit of a horror fan love for those. And there are two slots with either double-faced cards or the showcase equinox art style.
#4. Innistrad: Crimson Vow
Three slots in the Crimson Vow set boosters have the possibility of containing double-faced cards, which are generally disturb cards or werewolves. That land slot is still eternal night. And the Commander cards unique to these set boosters include one of the chase mythics of the set: Wedding Ring.
Kaldheim is a very powerful set filled with Standard staples like Goldspan Dragon and a variety of Commander must-haves like The World Tree. Kaldheim set boosters also preserved some of the structure of the first Standard-legal snow set in many years by reserving one wild card spot for a snow card, and the land card is also snow.
The boosters also included some Standard-legal set booster exclusives that could slip into the uncommon or rare slots. These are cards like Youthful Valkyrie and Rampage of the Valkyries, both of which are key cards in certain angel builds.
- A new way of experiencing Booster openings, introduced in 2020.
- Each booster follows a path as you open it.
- 12 cards per booster pack.
#2. Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty
For the first time, up to five slots have the possibility of being double-faced. Which is good given that these will be double-faced saga cards that flip into creatures, Neon Dynasty‘s signature innovation. That mixed with some dollar value in staple new rares like The Wandering Emperor and Fable of the Mirror-Breaker, as well as the cycle of legendary lands like multi-format all-star Boseiju, Who Endures, makes for a compelling case.
The Neon Dynasty set boosters lack the neon ink style responsible for some of the crazy high value Hidetsugu, Devouring Chaos cards, which you’ll need a collector booster to find. And unlike the Innistrad sets, not all the lands are the signature full-art Ukiyo-e lands. There’s a bit less than a 50-50 chance to pull one of those, but those lands are also holding value a bit better than the Innistrad lands.
The set booster exclusive list is the best of the lot, including popular new commanders Yoshimaru, Ever Faithful and shrines tribal commander Go-Shintai of Life’s Origin.
- The Kamigawa Neon Dynasty Set Booster Pack includes 12 cards.
- 1 in 4 Set Boosters includes a card from "The List"—a pool of reprints.
#1. Modern Horizons 2
The release of Modern Horizons 2 altered the meta of Modern to such an extent that I’ve heard it referred to as “Modern Horizons Block Constructed.” From Urza's Saga to Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer to reprints of enemy fetch lands, there’s a lot here. One head turner slot is filled with “new to Modern” reprints like Karmic Guide and Riptide Laboratory.
Given how many cards in this set remain above $25 and how many cards are must-have Modern staples, the Modern Horizons 2 set boosters give you the best chance of any booster released of returning or exceeding the value of the pack.
- Includes 1 Magic: The Gathering Modern Horizons 2 Set Booster (12 Magic Cards total).
- 1 Sketch or Retro-Frame card in every pack.
- 1 New-to-Modern reprint in every pack.
- 1 foil and possibility of multiple Rares in every pack.
- Set Boosters are the go-to if you are looking to crack open booster packs and experience the flavour of a new set..Modern Horizons 2 introduces powerful cards and beloved reprints to the Modern format..Modern format games use cards from Core Set Eighth Edition and Mirrodin through to today..A set full of classic Magic charm, delightful throwback characters, and stunning special treatments.
What's the Difference Between a “Regular” MTG Booster and a Set Booster?
A “regular” or draft booster has 15 cards, including a rare or mythic, a foil slot with a small chance of being a rare or mythic, three uncommons, and a common. The cards are color balanced for drafting purposes.
A set booster has the commons and uncommons linked in some way. It supplements the set with a higher possibility of rares/mythics as well as alternate artworks and showcase treatments. Set boosters also include an art card and the possibility that the token slot will be replaced by cards from The List. Some set boosters have Commander cards or even Commander exclusives, and some now have in-universe reprints of Secret Lair cards.
How Many Packs Are in a Set Booster Box?
Set booster boxes have 30 packs. A draft booster box has 36.
Are Set Booster Boxes Worth It in General?
From a money perspective, it seems unlikely that you'd break even by opening boosters of any kind over time. If you’re looking to save sealed product to sell later, I imagine set booster boxes will retain value better than draft booster boxes, but we don’t have enough history yet to be sure.
Set boosters seem more fun than cracking draft packs if that's what you're after. Unless you’re drafting with those boosters, which is a different story. There’s a lot more suspense because of The List. In other words, if you crack packs for fun, you already know that you might be better off buying singles, but you can’t help yourself. Fun is fun. If you're cracking packs for fun, set boosters are probably worth the dollar extra(ish) you spend on those over draft boosters.
Are Set Boosters Discontinued?
Wizards of the Coast announced in October 2023 that, with the release of Murders at Karlov Manor, Draft and Set Boosters would be combined into one new booster type: the Play Booster. These boosters have all of the fun and exciting cards from your average Set Booster, but are assembled in a way that can be played in Limited. It is intended to completely replace both booster types.
How Many Rares Are in a Set Booster Box?
There will be at least 30 rares/mythics in a set booster box, but more likely just shy of 40. At a general rate of about 1 mythic to every 7.4 rares, that would mean 32-33 rares and 5-6 mythics for a pile of 38 rares/mythics.
How Many Mythics Are in a Set Booster Box?
As with the stats above, you can expect about 5-6 mythics in a set booster box.
Are Set Boosters Limited Release?
Set boosters, like draft boosters, could be reprinted to meet the demand.
Do Set Boosters Have Cards from The List?
Yes, set boosters had cards from The List. There’s a 25% chance any given set booster will have the card in the token slot replaced by a card from The List.
How Many Set Booster Boxes Are in a Case?
There are six set booster boxes in a case. And while you're asking, have you considered wholesale booster boxes?
Shaman of the Pack | Illustration by Dan Scott
Whatever booster you’re thinking of whether it's play, draft, set, or collector, you’re unlikely to make all of your money back in cards that you actually want in your decks. This math changes a bit if you have an entire spare room devoted to your 100+ EDH decks.
But if you just love cracking packs the way you did when you were a kid and got your first booster pack, then set boosters are probably a good deal. They're definitely more fun to crack than draft boosters. Even something as simple as having the mystery to solve of how the common and uncommons are linked is a small pleasure to be enjoyed.
So whether you crack them right there at your LGS to show off the happy or the crappy from the pack or take them home to savor later, this product was designed for you.
Happy cracking, folks!
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