To Those Who Say I’m Heartless…

Well, you’re right. It’s the one CF I don’t have at least one copy of, unless it’s hiding out in some of my sealed boxes, but, if it is, I’ll never know. Thanks for bring it up. What I actually want to talk about in a more moderately-sized piece is one particular facet of the recent print run info. While my March State of the Market over at the Rathe Times discusses the broad strokes of the print run announcement, there are a few elements that I want to go into at a bit more length and, given how much misleading information is getting tossed around, we might as well start with Fableds. The most important thing to know about the print run announcement, as it regards Fabled cards is that we got no new concrete information about them. Anyone who is giving you a concrete number of Fabled cards without presenting it as speculation is either passing on bad info they got or outright attempting to mislead you, and there are definitely some people out there trying to push bad info.

Hard Facts

Let’s start with the hard facts of Fabled cards. I’m calling something a “hard fact” if it can be traced directly to a source from LSS, and I will document the sources for all of the ones I present here, don’t worry, it won’t take long. There aren’t a lot of hard facts.

First we have the Collector’s Center. The Collector’s Center tells us how many packs were printed for each set, and we can use that to calculate the number of each card… except for Fs, because, as you can see, the F pull rate for each set is ???

So that’s the official information on the main site about the frequency of Fableds number: literally nothing. What else do we have? Well, the sole official source that I’ve ever seen regarding Fabled pull rates comes from this social media post by James White:

What we have here is James giving what appears to be a print run in relation to a known rare card: Magic’s Black Lotus. He tells us that, compared to the Alpha printing of Black Lotus, there are “half as many Alpha Hearts in circulation.” How many Alpha Black Lotuses were printed? Thanks for asking; I wish you hadn’t, because this is awkward. So for a very long time the number was widely thought to be known (kind of like how everyone “knew” that there were 22k boxes of WTR); you can see the info that the community has been working with for many years in this very detailed reddit post. Per this article, there were 1100 copies of each Alpha Rare. However, FAB and Magic FB regular, Daniel Henry pointed me to this very recent post by Peter Adkison (the founder of Wizards of the Coast) who revealed that the print run was actually 1008 for Alpha Rares. I mention this mainly to be as complete and accurate as possible. When James White made his post, the accepted number of Lotuses was 1100, so presumably that is the number he was referencing.

Given the 1100, half as many Hearts gets us 550. Now, some people have pointed to “in circulation” as suggesting that James’ post could be referring to the number of boxes that had been sold at the time of posting. If that were true, it would mean that more than 550 Hearts were printed. While that is a grammatically possible interpretation, I tend to believe that he was speaking about the full print run as that requires the least contortions, and given James’ extensive experience with Magic –the fact that he chose to use the Lotus as a comparison point in the first place, for instance- makes a strong case that he knows how many Alpha Lotuses were believed to have been printed. So, that would give us precise number of Hearts. The 550 Hearts is not a concrete fact – we do know that James is making this comparison, but there is wiggle-room in the interpretation. Still, I think there is a compelling case to take the most obvious interpretation of the sentence (Heart = Lotus/2) and assume this was a clear purposeful and symbolic number. If you’re going to take on Magic in both gameplay and collectability, making your iconic rare card twice as rare as Magic’s is a powerful message.

What’s significant about this specific post is that it and one other post (Alan Hale’s FB post that told us WTR, ARC, and CRU wave one were the same size) are the sources of almost all speculation on WTR and ARC print runs prior to the formal release last week. Before we found out that WTR and ARC had 16,666 boxes each (plus some odd packs), the broadly held assumption was that they were each 22,000 boxes. Where did the 22k number come from? James’ post. The belief (and again this was a belief, not a fact) was that Hearts showed up 1:40 boxes. So you take 550×40 and now you have 22,000 boxes. Here’s where the issue with the numbers currently floating around comes into play. People are taking the 1:40 and applying it to 16,666 to claim there are 416 Hearts. But there is no basis for the 1:40 as LSS has never stated a pull rate for Fs – or at least no one who I’ve questioned about their usage of 1:40 has ever been able to present a source to me (if you have an LSS source, please get in contact via Discord or e-mail). Unless someone can produce some evidence of that 1:40 rate, then I believe that we can conclude that it exists simply because it’s a nice round number that more or less “felt right” to people (1:4 for an L makes for a reasonable jump to 1:40 for an F in the absence of actual information).

One other thing I want to touch on here is a weird claim that I’ve seen cropping up a lot recently, namely that the UNL F pull rate is higher than it was in Alpha. This article poses the question, “What is different about Unlimited Edition,” and answers with “Firstly, Unlimited Edition is black border and contains exactly the same cards as the original printing of these products, in the same configuration. Unlimited Edition supports booster draft and sealed deck play.” I think the most clear and logical way to interpret that bolded phrase is that they didn’t mess with the odds in UNL. What you’re likely seeing is an excellent example of how people are really quite bad at observing things like pull rates.

Onto the Speculation

So, the info above is a collection of facts. From there we move into the speculative realm, and let’s start with my take on the number of Fs. I think that the number of Hearts and Eyes is *drumroll* 550. The most direct read of James’ statement is that there are 550. You can contort the words to get a different number, but you’re picking a less likely interpretation. 550 is symbolic; other numbers that aren’t a clean cut fraction of 1100 are not. Again, I think that the revelation a couple weeks ago about the true Alpha print is a very cool bit of CCG history, but I also assume that James probably was working with the same 1100 figures as everyone else, given that Peter Adkison, himself, needed to make some calls and have people dig through old notes to find the true number.

If we take the 550 Hearts and then divide those among then known number of boxes of WTR printed from the collector’s center, you get a rate of 1:30.3, or round to the nearest whole number and get 1:30 for the odds of opening an F. So, since 550 was already a concrete number and not a rate, nothing changes for WTR and ARC, but it means there are more Shards than assumed (though that is somewhat mitigated by CRU’s print run being smaller than assumed). The bigger revelation is that we should do some reassessment on how we value first edition Fs for MON forward (they’re still going to be very valuable for quite a few more sets), but what really changes is the value of an F in unlimited printings. The thing about first edition is that they’re, so far, very small print runs, so while the 1:30 vs 1:40 split matters –there are actually more shards in 37,500 boxes at a 1:30 pull rate than there would have been in the previously assumed 44,000 box print run with a 1:40 rate- the discrepancy is not going to stop these cards from spiking. Unlimited, on the other hand, will presumably overcome the current printing issues eventually, and we’ll see readily available boxes out there at MAP and below. If LLS accomplishes this, the amount of cards entering the secondary will continue to go up, and if Fs are 1:30 boxes as opposed to 1:40, we’ll see a fair bit more on the market than previously expected. This should have the effect of hitting Fs harder than most other cards when the unlimited singles bubble pops. (Again, current unlimited singles prices are entirely contingent on cheap boxes being unavailable due to supply issues. If these issues are ever overcome, the unlimited singles bubble will burst when people see an obvious arbitrage opportunity to crack $76 boxes for $100+ EV in singles.

The Take Home

CF Hearts and Eyes are probably as rare as you always thought they were. We’ll probably see them move up along with everything else though as the market adjusts to the smaller print runs, kind of a rising tide lifts all ships situation. Shards are probably slightly more common than expected, but it doesn’t matter because with rising CRU prices, they were also undervalued. RF Shards and Hearts are likely more common than initially thought and also experiencing inflated prices due to supply shortage. If unlimited WTR and ARC ever meet demand, they could drop in value dramatically, likely to the tune of a $200+ a piece. I wouldn’t touch an unlimited F on the singles market unless you actually need it for play, and I would absolutely not invest in them. Investment in unlimited Fables at current prices is essentially a bet that LSS will not print enough unlimited WTR and ARC to meet demand before putting the set out of print (if you believe that’s going to happen, then feel free to go deep on unl Fs). Finally, I think it’s more likely that the MON F is going to be 1:30 not 1:40 packs, but I also assume that they’ll be aggressively bought up and they’ll be worth more a year from now than whatever people are paying next month. If you open one and don’t have an immediate use for the money, I would recommend holding at least a year or more.

*Header Image – White Skull on White Wooden Table by cottonbro under Pexels free-use liscence

%d bloggers like this: