How To Tell Magic The Gathering Card Rarity
A week ago Axel gave a large box of old cards to a friend. Her 8 year old has just taken up playing magic, so we thought giving him a big box of old cards would be a great present for him. When she came to pick up the cards we started talking about magic, and the subject of value came up. Mary could not believe that there were cards worth 30 you can open from packs widely available now, let alone the 1000's that some of the rarest older cards fetch from high end collectors.
how to tell magic the gathering card rarity
Because of that conversation, Axel and I got to thinking that we have often seen kids that dont know the value of their cards, and their parents have even less of a clue. I personally have been collecting, trading and playing magic since 1994. I have a good idea of the value of most cards, but that has been built up over years. It can be a daunting task if you see the sheer volume of cards that one person can aquire. So we wanted to help by writing a simple article to explain how to identify and value magic cards. This explanation is intended to be a good guide, not a complete explanaion of every card and its value. There will be some exceptions to the guide, but for our purposes this will cover almost all of the people that the article is aimed at.
So where to start? First off, I think a short explanation about the cards is needed. Magic is a collectable card game with artificial rarity placed upon the cards. That is to say, that when printing the cards they make some cards rarer than others to increase their value both in the game and financially. The most common way to buy cards is a "Booster Pack". With a few exceptions, these will be randomised 15 card packs that will include:
As you can see we can ignore most of the cards & concentrate on the rares, mytic rares & foil cards. To tell if a card is rare or mythic rare we look at the expansion set symbol. Almost all cards will have an expansion set symbol on it to help you identify it.
The colour of this symbol will tell you what rarity the card is; common = black, uncommon = silver, rare = gold, mythic = orange-red / bronze. Foil cards will still have the coloured symbol from the rarity of the non-foil version. But all foil cards have a good chance of being valuable, so treat them all as rare.
If you are having trouble identifying the rarity of a card this way there is a very helpful website that contains almost all versions of every magic card that has ever been printed It can tell you very quickly the rarity of a card. If after searching for a card the image does not match what you are seeing that is very likely because there are different editions that have different art. There are links to show you every edition of the card on the left had site of the site.
Now we have identified the most likely cards to be worth money, we have to price them. There are lots of different places that you can see the value of a magic card, and they can vary a lot. I put them into 2 camps, Magic Dealers & Community. The magic dealers make a living out of selling cards, there are a lot of them and their prices will be high. They are a good tool to use to quickly check the value of a card, but it is unlikely that you will be able to get the same amount yourself. We will be more interested in the community side of pricing. Your best tool to see a realistic price for a card is Magic Card Market a large european trading site. I would caution buying and selling on this site unless you know what you are doing, but it is great for getting a very up to date price on any card. There is also a very helpful facebook group I am a member of that can help you value cards and set up trades.
Rarity indicates the availability of a card, there are four rarities in MTG Arena Common, Uncommon, Rare, and Mythic Rare. The rarity affects how often cards will be found when opening card packs with Common being the most frequent and Mythic Rare the least frequent.
If you're new to the game or need a refresher, it might not be immediately apparent what a card's rarity means. This guide tells you everything you need to know about determining and assessing a card's rarity!
Rarity is a rough measure of how likely a card is to appear in a booster pack. Cards have four rarity ratings: Common, Uncommon, Rare, and Mythic Rare. As you can probably guess, the rarer a card's rating, the harder it will be to find a copy!
Except for very old cards, the rarity of each Magic card is clearly marked on its face. Look for a small symbol on the right side of the card, between the illustration and the text box. This is the card's set symbol. The shape indicates which set, or edition, that particular card was printed in, and the color indicates the rarity, as follows:
Cards printed before the Exodus set in 1998 did not use colored symbols to show rarity, and many of these cards have no set symbol at all! If you have some of these older cards, the only way to determine the rarity is to look it up online.
Mythic Rarity was introduced in the 2008 set Shards Of Alara, and will not appear on any cards printed prior. It's also worth noting that some cards have been reprinted at different rarity levels in different sets, so two copies of a card may have different-colored symbols!
As a general rule of thumb, a card with higher rarity will have more impactful in-game effects than one with a lower rarity. However, the best Magic players use whichever cards work best in their deck, regardless of rarity!
There are slower ways to verify the rarity of your Magic The Gathering cards but Wizards of the Coast has marked on each card what its rarity is in a number of locations. The image below is of a Grand Abolisher card from the Magic The Gathering set Archenemy: Nicol Bolas.
Here (1) you'll see a symbol, depending on what color is in the symbol will determine which type of rarity the card is. In this example we see that Grand Abolisher has a yellow/gold Expansion Symbol icon, this informs us that he is a Rare card. You can also look at the lower-left corner of the card (2) to find a letter. The R here on Grand Abolisher confirms yet again that this is a Rare card. Cards of Rare or Mythic Rarity will also have a foil sticker in the lower center of the card. While the symbol being representative of rarity is like Pokemon, the number in the lower left is similar to Digimon.
Magic: The Gathering has been around since 1993, and the card pool has grown truly enormous. How can players sort through over 15,000 unique cards? One way is to sort them by color or tribe, such as the Elf tribe or the Goblin tribe. However, the most universal way is to sort them by rarity, and experienced players can tell a card's rarity at a glance.
Novice players may not be sure how to tell cards apart based on rarity at first. After all, all card types of all colors appear in the four rarities, and when it comes time to organize a collection, it's a good idea to set aside the rare and mythic rare cards. Newcomers can learn a few basic patterns and signs of the four rarities to help them sort their cards with ease -- even by the thousands.
A player may glance at a card and see a lot of rules text, and realize that it's probably a rare or mythic rare. Then, they can check the rarity symbol to confirm it. A rare card's expansion symbol is gold with a thin black border, and a mythic rare card's symbol is reddish-bronze. With this color code, a player can even just check the expansion symbol alone and see what rarity the card is.
The first letter is the card's rarity. Rarity is important, because for production purposes, different rarities tend to end up in different places. (I'm not getting into how production makes cards, but how R&D handles the information.) Thus the first function of a card code is to let everyone know a card's rarity. So how many rarities does Magic have? Seriously, see if you can guess. Once you've made a guess, move on to the next paragraph.
Did you say six? Well then you've forgotten that there are cards in the booster pack with card frames and art other than tournament legal cards. Yes, the token cards. They have their own rarity. (In fact, token cards have various effective rarities, but for card code purposes they are listed as a single rarity.)
So what does the second letter represent? Did you say color? Sorry, wrong. The second letter actually represents the card frame. Well, at least that's how the card code started. The second letter tells the production people what frame the card needs.
The rarity of some sets cannot be determined only using the cards themselves. Early in Magic's history, it was intended to be part of the "experience" to let the market determine what was rare, and to let rares be surprises.
Your only hope now is to use an external resource. The canonical resource for all cards is the gatherer at which you can use to filter by individual cards, sets, rarity levels, and so forth. Keep in mind that searching for a card at a given rarity might yield strange results if that card was later released at a different rarity.
Rarity refers to the distribution of cards in Magic boosters. Magic has common (C), uncommon (U), rare (R) and mythic rare (M or MR) cards. Basic lands technically have their own rarity (L), but are often marked as common. The latter also applies to special cards (S) and tokens (T).
Since the Exodus expansion the rarity of a card has been identified by the color of the expansion symbol. Up until that point, you had to learn rarity from card lists. One of the most important things about trading in the early days was being aware of what rarity each card was. Common cards use a black-filled expansion symbol, except in the Coldsnap and Dominaria expansions where a white symbol is used. Uncommon cards use a solid silver- or black-to-white fade-filled expansion symbol. Rare cards use a gold-filled expansion symbol. Mythic rare is recognized by the orange / rose-gold color. Cards in Time Spiral's timeshifted subset use a purple expansion symbol.