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Expect Smaller Print Runs & Higher Prices October 9, 2009

Posted by James in : all, random , trackback

Magic 2010 was released a little bit at a time. Stores would only get so many booster packs at a time, and sometimes ran out of them when people wanted to play Magic 2010 booster drafts. The same thing is happening again with Zendikar.

John Saso, the owner of Superstars, told me that the sets have smaller print runs because too many people would buy boxes of cards then sell them online for so cheap that no profit could be made. (Take this with the credibility of a rumor, but it does make sense.) If someone sells a box of cards on ebay for $80, and that is the price a brick and mortar store pays for the boxes, then we have no reason to buy boxes for more than that. Brick and mortar stores are then unable to make a profit from selling booster packs.

If distributes get a very limited supply of booster boxes, then they won’t sell booster boxes to online sellers for a mere $80 due to the laws of supply and demand. The less booster packs, the more they are worth. If stores run out of booster packs too quickly, they will think twice about selling them for next to nothing. Therefore, stores should be able to sell booster packs for a profit once again.

However, John Saso also said that he isn’t getting enough booster packs anymore. He has tournaments to run and I’ve heard he had to buy boosters from other stores to make sure he won’t run out. The result is that booster packs are now being sold for $5 a pack. It looks like Wizards of the Coast might have went a little too far. There’s not enough booster packs anymore, so the price is going up.

There’s one other problem with printing so few cards: It makes the game more expensive. Magic: the Gathering is just about the most expensive game you could ever play. A single Magic card can cost you around $3,000. Of course, standard is the most popular way to play, which uses only the newest Magic cards, but that will still probably cost you a couple hundred dollars in order to make a good deck. The result of making Magic cards more expensive is to make the most expensive game around into an even more expensive game. If we can’t afford to play, we might stop playing. This is a possible unintended result of making booster packs profitable.
I remember being able to buy booster packs for around $2.50, even when the retail value was around $4. This made the game a lot more affordable. I mostly just play in drafts, and drafts were around $11 with a decent prize support. It’s more expensive than a movie, but the cards you get are also worth money. I was able to eventually get 4 of every card from Lorwyn and Shadowmoor just from playing in drafts, so I was then able to play in standard tournaments.

Then came the introduction of Mythic rares. I was never able to get 4 Elspeths. Any mythic rare worth playing in standard ends up being worth around $30. Mythic rares were a blow to my ability to play in Standard.

And now Zendikar’s rares are just about the only cards worth getting. The commons and uncommons aren’t that great. This makes the game even more expensive, and I don’t currently have any plans to play in Standard events.

Zendikar might look like it wants to make mono-color decks viable again. Dual lands are the most expensive part of Magic; and if we don’t need the new fetch lands, then we might be able to play standard without spending hundreds of dollars. However, Zendikar is far from making mono-color decks viable. The fetch lands are more important than ever before. Landfall is hundreds of times better with fetch lands, and landfall is one of the most powerful new abilities.

I am one of the biggest Magic addicts in the world, and it’s also my main way of making money at the moment, but I still can’t afford to play the game in its “standard” form. Although I want Magic to be profitable, the decision to make Magic more profitable has gone too far and there will be some unintended consequences.

I’m not ready to “quit Magic” and I think we need to realize that standard (type 2) might not be the best way to play the game anyway. I am going to look into inventing type 3, which will be a little bit like peasant magic. We should look into having events that do away with rares.


1. michael - October 9, 2009

Talk with the store owner about running peasant or pauper tournaments. They have semi-strong followings and established rules so people can build decks on the cheap. It isn’t a sanctioned format…so you probably couldn’t get away with it for an FNM, but it would be a cheaper change of pace than drafts or Standard. Plus, since the formats are already established you can just print out the deck construction rules and everyone has a level playing field.

2. James - October 9, 2009

That is an idea, but peasant magic isn’t really peasant enough for most people. That’s why I want Type 3, and I would like it to become official.

3. Recoculous.com: Magic the Gathering Articles » What is Type 3? - October 17, 2009

[…] I have already discussed the fact that Magic is becoming more expensive, and I suggested that we need rules for Type 3, a cheaper way to play Magic. And now we have them. […]