WOTC needs to put the magic back into Magic: The Gathering booster packs...
It's rare that I will take to the articles here on LandSayGo to lament about the circumstances we find ourselves in regarding #MTG. I don't think I ever have posted a critique quite like this. In fact, I have become, like many of you, comfortable with my "cardboard crack" addiction. The dealers keep peddling, and I keep buying. It's a hopeless path - a downward spiral - a never ending chase of that elusive Dragon (Nicol Bolas). I'm not the first to bring up the financial racket that is MTG, and by the way, if you don't think this hobby is expensive then you've likely got more money than common sense. In which case, I have an amazing investment opportunity for you that could possibly double or triple your money in 40 years. Sign Here __________________X.
In Battle for Zendikar and Kaladesh you could actually open booster packs, and still can open booster packs, and find these cards. They were ultra-rare, difficult-to-find inserts into booster packs of Magic cards called masterpieces, inventions and expeditions. A trend, I think, that #WOTC should have continued. Granted, these inventions, masterpieces and expeditions are not a thing of the too distant past, and Wizards may very well have the intent to do a release like this in the future, but I guess what's bothering me today, as I sit here drumming away on my laptop, is that the buy-in for paper Magic on the collectible front is punishing.
I talk to a lot of different flavors of Magic players. The sweaty hardcore's, the filthy casuals, DBoe, and almost all of them lament the business model. I am not intrinsically opposed to the idea of making money. I have a professional career, I have a mortgage, I am a habitual saver, and I would love an opportunity to deploy my skills for an organization like #WOTC in a business development capacity. Will that ever happen (shakes magic 8-ball)? "Ask Again Later." There is, however, a uniform opinion that most of the dedicated players of the #MTG scene have: the doggone game is too expensive.
Just look at the debacle that is Mythic Edition?! What the actual #&^% is going on in this game that they think they can demand $250.00(US) for this item? Collectible or not, limited run or not, I want to remind you that you can go out to a local brick and mortar, or surf out to Amazon and buy a XBOX for the same price. I am reminded of the Black Friday riots of 2016 when these disastrous releases for "exclusive collectibles" hit the market and a company as large as Hasbro cannot fulfill orders or produce enough supply for the player base to be satisfied...and out come the ambulance chasers.
Let's take a step back from my vitriolic rhetoric for a moment here and appeal to our logical side:
-"Jeremy, if the price of the game is too expensive, then why do you play? Why not spend your money on other things?"
Good question, I probably should, if it weren't for the fact that I work hard (in real life and on LandSayGo) and I love this game. The math, competition, the fantasy, and I also love collecting. It's a perfect storm, really. Magic is my hobby, and as such, I have to have some financial outlay to do the things I love. Nothing is free.
-"Jeremy, what if I told you that you can download MTG Arena and play it for free, and get the same satisfaction?"
I would say, "No-Duh." If I feel like investing my most valuable commodity - time - at an unhealthy level, into the game, and grind for limited rewards day after day to finally complete a deck I want to play just ahead of the release of the next set, and then have to restart, again? I'll be sure to let you know.
-"Jeremy, what's the difference between spending money on MTG Arena and buying paper cards, you are fleshing out your collection for Standard either way?"
Not really; not to me at least. I want something physical, I am old school with my approach to this. If calamity hits the world-wide-web, Netscape goes down, and I can't get on America Online to MUD with my buddies in chat rooms, I at least want to have my cards to build decks and play the game. If I can't touch it, it's not real. The one upside is that everything in Arena is full art.
-"Jeremy, if you have this much of a negative stance regarding collectible versions of cards, you don't have to buy them. Right?"
You are correct. I do not have to buy them, and I won't, and you know what? Hasbro and WOTC won't even notice, or care.
But, I digress. Forgive me.
I don't know if it makes good business sense; honestly, I don't care. As a consumer I want to be able to feel the "magic" in the purchasing of MTG product. I grew up opening packs of baseball cards specifically for the gum. Topps knew that if they included a sweet treat in the pack that I would be a buyer. I bought more packs of BFZ & Kaladesh than any other set in my history with the game; I was chasing that feeling of excitement.
What possible reason would #WOTC have for not including the Mythic full-art Planeswalkers in packs at an ultra-rare capacity? Sure, they can create a standalone product, take it to market, albeit poorly, and make a fast $6 million bucks. But, wouldn't the "better play" be to include those highly collectible, and highly sought after cards in the set booster packs for War of the Spark? Wouldn't people and consumers engage in "Wonka-Mania" by scrambling to find the coveted prizes? Couldn't we create a lasting and permanent desire for the set beyond its already fabulous potential? Isn't the inclusion of these ultra-rare cards in set booster packs just ensuring that the investor types have staying power in making their product porn videos? Doesn't it strengthen the holistic health of the collectible aspects of the game?
Just think about the magic and mystique for future Magic players. In five, ten or even fifteen years, players could still be opening #WAR packs and hoping to find the holy grail. But, no, that ship has sailed. Now we are facing a world where a disastrous public release of a collectible item has delivered a one-two punch to #WOTC and they are having to shell out a portion of the profits for the Mythic Edition product in the form of uncut foil sheets of rares and mythics from War of the Spark. A collector's item to be sure, but framing it and hanging it on your wall is a constant reminder of the inept and inadequate go-to-market strategies of our cardboard overlords.
It's laughable, really, and I'm jealous I can't have a foil sheet. Addicted.
Maybe one day we can expect a sizable change in the MTG economy, but that would likely come with the floor falling out on pricing, and the collectible aspect of the game of Magic drying up and disappearing. Which is not what I want. How would I separate myself in terms of status from my friends then? How would I maintain my already fragile ego based entirely off of a collection of cardboard rectangles with pictures and words on them?
I can tell you this: I will not be buying a $250.00 limited run of anything, ever. No - I will continue to invest my money in booster boxes. I will get more of the set for collectible purposes. I get more chances at opening the best cards in the set. I get the satisfying feeling of tearing open the pack, smelling the freshly printed cards, and thumbing through them deliberately reading those I haven't seen as I approach the rare or mythic and slowly sliding the last uncommon up to reveal the R or M on the final card.
Wouldn't it be great if that final card was a full-art Planeswalker? A highly collectible one?
I'll be back next week, and in a far better, more creative, and fun loving mood. Talk to you soon - thanks for reading.
If you'd like to discuss, leave me a comment below or on one of our many social media accounts. :)