Last updated on July 27, 2021
Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite | Illustration by Igor Kieryluk
In the before times (2019 to be precise), WotC began whetting our appetites with a brand-new product that was simply called “Mystery Booster.” With no hints, no artwork to tease the set or anything else, the Magic community was baffled as to what exactly Mystery Boosters could be.
Would it be an entirely new product? Was it just the codename for a new Masters-style set? Would it even contain actual MTG cards? Well, a few months later at MagicFest Richmond (remember when that was a thing?), we got our answer! It turns out that Mystery Boosters were… well, all of the above.
Mystery Booster is a product designed to provide an experience reminiscent of Cube or Chaos Draft, but out of a regular booster product. Although mostly designed to be a convention-only product available to draft at MagicFest and other similar events, the packs were actually printed in two versions: Convention Edition and Store Edition. There’s only a small difference between the two editions, but we’ll cover that later.
Good Mythical Morning
So What Is a Mystery Booster Set Anyway?
Slave of Bolas | Illustration by Steve Argyle
The set is a compilation of 1,694 cards from all across Magic’s history. Why so many cards? Well, as it happens, Magic cards are printed on large sheets that can fit 121 cards each. 121 x 14 = 1,694.
Normal draft sets are around 250 to 300 cards, so a set that’s almost seven times bigger is going to be a bit crazy to follow. When R&D were asked if they could create a set of this size, they simply said that it would be doable assuming they could use existing card files and didn’t have to create entirely new cards. Cards from Mystery Boosters are exact reprints of previously-printed versions with a small planeswalker symbol in the bottom-left corner of the card.
We haven’t seen Mystery Boosters in some time, but WotC recently announced that they’re making their (presumably) enormous stock of unused Convention Edition Mystery Boosters available to WPN stores to celebrate being able to return to in-store play. Check out the full list of 1,694 Mystery Booster cards over at ScryFall or check out our draft ratings for the set, here.
How Many Mystery Boosters Are in a Box?
Mystery Booster boxes contain just 24 boosters as opposed to the usual 36. One box is all you need for a full draft, but you may want to source prizes elsewhere.
There’s also only one kind of booster available, so no set or collector booster variants here.
The Mystery Booster Editions: Store vs. Convention Versions
Vampire Hexmage | Illustration by Eric Deschamps
There’s one slot in all Mystery Boosters that’s dedicated to a special foil card. You’ll get a card from a special 15th sheet of foil variant cards in the Store Edition boosters.
None of those 121 cards are in the main set which means they’re not available in the Convention Edition. Some of these are also highly desirable in foil as they’ve never been reprinted, like Minamo, School at Water’s Edge and Amulet of Vigor.
- Revisit popular and fun mechanics from years gone by
- Contains mostly reprinted cards from earlier sets
- 121 possible foil cards to collect
- This listing is for one single booster packet
Here’s where it gets a little bit weird. The 15th card slot in Convention Edition boosters goes to a card from another sheet of 121 cards. This time they were R&D playtest cards.
Sometimes R&D designs cards that never see the light of day for a number of reasons. This sheet gave R&D the scope to design a plethora of weird and wonderful cards without the usual constraints to consider, like the setting or flavor of a set or how overpowered they might be.
Think of this as a sheet full of cards that could have been printed in Future Sight if they did another set like that. Or a sheet of cards that were just a bit too silly to make it into Modern Horizons 2.
This sheet is full of puns, Magic in-jokes, and downright wacky designs. I love everything about it. Some of these cards have even made their way into recent sets. Enchantmentize was printed in Theros: Beyond Death as One With the Stars.
It’s also worth noting that these are extremely hard to get because of the dozens of MagicFest events that were supposed to support Mystery Boosters but ended up getting canceled thanks to Covid. Some of them are very expensive as a result. The release of these boosters to LGSes will inevitably tank those prices.
There are some very nice, very pricey cards in this release, but what are the most expensive ones? Let’s take a look.
Expropriate is a pretty powerful effect and powerful is the name of the game in Commander. Taking an extra turn and stealing a permanent from each opponent (which is probably going to happen since taking multiple extra turns is even more absurd) is an exceptional deal. Try copying it if you’re daring or rude enough for that.
This card was a mythic in an under-printed set and this is its first printing since then, giving it a hefty price tag.
Slivers are one of Magic’s most popular tribes, and every single one of the 5-color legendary slivers command a large price if you want them in your collection.
Despite its recent printing in Strixhaven’s Mystical Archives, Teferi’s Protection has kept its value largely due to how obnoxious it can get in a Commander game. This fogs for a turn and protects all of your permanents in a regular game. But in Commander, you’re protected against all of your opponents’ turns in one go.
Recruiter of the Guard has been a staple in Legacy ever since it was first printed. Death & Taxes decks use the Recruiter to tutor up any of their creatures, including one-offs, making it a very versatile card. It’s also had very few printings, which explains its price.
This legendary creature has proven to be the most effective of the Phyrexian Praetors over the years. Once a Standard all-star, Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite is now ruining peoples’ fun at Commander tables around the world. It’s even a legitimate threat to reanimate in Legacy. This Praetor already has a few printings, but that hasn’t slowed it down at all.
Did you pay the one? I’m sure I don’t have to explain this to Commander players, because I don’t think there are many out there who’ve not been asked the question at some point. Rhystic Study is of Magic’s most expensive commons because it’s had far too few printings at this point in time. It’s also a staple of most blue Commander decks.
All you need to ask is, “did you pay the one?”
Cards that see play and have never been reprinted outside of their original printing will always be pretty expensive, and Carpet of Flowers is a perfect example of this. This card has been a staple of Legacy Storm sideboards for decades. But since it only ever had a single printing back in Urza’s Saga, it’s never been cheap to pick up.
The fact that Bloom Tender hasn’t been reprinted yet has baffled me for years. There’s really no excuse. It’s from a Modern-legal set, only sees play in Commander, and isn’t even so powerful as to break Standard, so it could probably be printed in any set. But then again, only one printing and seeing play in Commander is the perfect recipe to give you an expensive Magic card.
What can even be said about Demonic Tutor? It’s one of the most iconic Commander staples, banned in Legacy, a staple for Vintage and Cube drafts, and it gets mythic rare reprints every now and again in reprint sets, including the especially beautiful versions in the Strixhaven Mystical Archive. The demand for this card is very high and I doubt its price will ever go much lower than this.
At some point, some members of R&D must have had a conversation that looked like this:
“Hey, quick question. Why have we never reprinted Mana Crypt?”
“Because it’s on the reserved list, obviously.”
“But it’s not on the reserved list. Look!”
“It’s not? Put it in every set!”
For years, we had no reprints of this “Power 15” card (a card that’s on par with the Power 9’s power level but isn’t one of those original nine), and then we got a bunch out of nowhere.
There have been five of the Crypts printed in the last five years alone. Banned in Legacy but still a Vintage staple and most importantly a very powerful Commander card, it’s always a mythic rare when it gets these reprints which makes it the most expensive card in Mystery Booster by far.
Like I said before, many of the R&D playtest cards are quite expensive, so here are the 10 most pricey ones. All of these prices are determined by the fact that these were only distributed at about a sixth of the events they were supposed to have been, meaning there will be tens (if not hundreds) of thousands of boxes of this set left unopened in WotC warehouses.
These prices are entirely driven by the ongoing pandemic and aren’t likely to last. That being said, this is where we’re at right now:
Absolutely, yes. With the obvious exception of the R&D playtest cards (they all say “not for constructed play” at the bottom), all Mystery Booster cards are legal for Constructed play.
Mystery Booster cards are virtually the same as other cards, with the exception of the small planeswalker symbol in the bottom-right of the card. Sadly, this is also true of cards on “The List” which appear in Standard set boosters with there being no way of telling what cards are in which product.
Take Ephemerate from Mystery Booster and Giver of Runes from The List as examples. Both were originally printed in Modern Horizons and have the same symbol indicating they’ve been reprinted in one of these products, but there’s no way of differentiating between them.
Why Are Mystery Booster Foils So Cheap?
Angel of the Dire Hour | Illustration by Jack Wang
Only five of the 121 foils from the Store Edition boosters have a value of over $10. Why is that? There are two main factors here:
- There are only 121 foils and you get one in each pack. Even if you’re opening set boosters from a Standard set, you get one in each pack but there are about 280 possible cards to open in that slot.
- All of the foils are equal in rarity, so the rare and mythic rare foils are naturally devalued because their rarity symbols don’t matter.
I remember seeing this set come out at my LGS and being surprised by the sweet foils everyone was opening. It didn’t take me very long to notice just how many times I kept seeing the same foil get opened by multiple people.
Is Mystery Booster Unlimited Print Run?
This is a difficult question to answer. Like I’ve mentioned a few times, the pandemic has heavily disrupted this set’s distribution. We should have had a few dozen MagicFests in 2020 where we would’ve drafted the Convention Edition a bunch of times. Those undrafted boxes will be distributed to LGS’ later this year, but it still feels like a missed opportunity.
Drafting the Store Edition of this set was the literal last thing I did with Magic before the UK lockdown began last March, so it didn’t last long there either. We haven’t seen another printing of this set since 2020, but that isn’t the whole story.
This entire set is designed for in-store and convention play. Neither of those things have existed for well over a year. When in-store play and conventions return in the coming months or years, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Mystery Boosters get printed again.
Is Mystery Booster Fun to Draft?
Ancestral Mask | Illustration by Magali Villeneuve
I got the opportunity to draft this set once before the pandemic hit us, and I had a lot of fun with it. I drafted a sweet Izzet spells deck with some great payoffs including Young Pyromancer. My brother loved it too, drafting a Simic ramp deck with Yavimaya’s Embrace and Leafdrake Roost.
But two anecdotes aren’t much to go by, so I posed this question to members of the UK Community Facebook group and here’s what some of they had to say about it:
Went into it completely blind. hadn’t played any magic for just over 2 years when we met up to draft it. Felt that it was a lot of fun, and pretty comparable to some cubes i have drafted. Really enjoy cube, and loved this as well. definately a product that i would look to grab a few boxes of for future drafts.
Draft was very enjoyable, though after 2 or 3 became a little bitstale after the novelty factor wore off, still a very good one. Sealed was not quite as good though, due to the “random” factor really screwing over deck possibilities.
Really enjoyed it, wish I’d been able to draft it some more! I loved the randomness of the packs and how it had cards from what felt like every set from Magic’s history. The draft portion took longer than normal as everyone was looking at all the varieties of cards available then deciding on what pile of awesomness they wanted to play. Its not a format for anyone wanting to draft with a “plan”, just find 2 colours and a few synergies and go for it. I ended up in a Selesnya ramp deck with Lotus Petal and a few mana dorks – having 3 or 4 mana by turn 2 was great!
Was an absolute blast. The most fun I’ve ever had drafting.
I played it a bunch at GP Brussels and it was great. Felt like a chaos draft but with better synergies. The convention cards were also great fun. I was sticking around to watch other people play games in the pod just because of the fun and interesting interactions. I’ve been off the MTG hype in the last year or so, but would gladly play Mystery Booster Draft any time.
Fantastic set, great price for all the reprints that were in it and the set was really well curated for draft. Some unique effects and it felt somewhere between a chaos draft and a cube. The drafts felt a little more repetitive than I would have expected (seeing particular cards more often than I’d have expected with the overall pool) but I wouldn’t call it repetitive (makes little sense I know…)
I loved it. Drafted it twice. You get some hella jank in those packs. I got scourge of the throne and triumph of the hordes in one of mine. Sadly never got the combo off…
Won the draft by opening mana crypt, then lost a round by losing 7 out of 8 coin flips. Good way to give the chaos draft feel while avoiding some packs being boring (core sets) or duds (parasitic mechanics e.g. kamigawa)
If you’re still not convinced, why not try it out for yourself right here on Draftsim? We have draft simulators ready and waiting for you to “try before you buy” for both the Store Edition and the Convention Edition!
Should I Buy Mystery Boosters?
Act on Impulse | Illustration by Brad Rigney
This is also a tricky question to answer because each player is going to be looking for something different. Many of the Store Edition booster boxes were bought by scalpers, and Convention Edition is very expensive at the moment.
Ultimately, there aren’t very many good pulls from the set. Only 40 cards are worth more than $10 and that makes it fairly rare to get your value out of individual boosters when you consider there are almost 1,700 that you could open. The value of the R&D playtest cards is likely to plummet once the supply increases, so it’s impossible to predict how much value you can expect out of those boosters yet.
I think the best way to answer this question is it’s a great idea if you’re looking to buy boxes to draft them. The set is really fun to draft, and I’d guess that people will be rearing to get drafts in as soon as they can after their restrictions are lifted.
If you want to sit on them and wait for value to increase, then I can’t advise you on that. It’s always going to be a gamble and nothing is for certain right now given how the set’s distribution is very closely linked to the ongoing pandemic.
Nin, the Pain Artist | Illustration by Brad Rigney
There’s a lot to unpack with Mystery Boosters and a lot to weigh up. I really love the R&D playtest cards and I’m definitely going to buy the Convention Edition just to get those cool cards if I buy any in the future. The set would have likely been the talk of 2020’s MagicFests if it weren’t for the thing I’ve mentioned several times already.
Did you get a chance to play it? What were your thoughts on the set? Do you have any of the sweet playtest cards? Let us know in the comments!
Until next time, take care of yourselves and I hope you’re all having an amazing summer!
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