What Was Your First Major Playset?

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There's something empowering about getting one's first playset of "expensive" (a very relative term) cards. I picked up my first playset of Lightning Bolts almost immediately upon learning to play Magic, but those were like a quarter at the time. Even paying a quarter for a single piece of cardboard seemed like a lot at ten years old. Seeing that some cards sold for dollars or more was crazy. Looking through Inquest magazine and seeing that the best cards went for tens or even hundreds of dollars was baffling to someone for whom buying a booster pack was a stretch.

Most Magic players go through a similar transformation: we learn to play, but don't see any need to get the expensive cards. "It's just a game," we all say. "Who needs to spend money on dual lands when basics are virtually free?"

First Duals

After a while, it doesn't seem so crazy to pay $10 for a playset of utility cards. "Hey, I have more fun when I win, and these are really important. No big deal." Then we start paying $10 for single cards, using the same logic. Before long, we're buying playsets of Tarmogoyfs.

In my case, I stopped playing budget brews when I completed my playset of Snapcaster Mage. After returning to Magic in 2011 after a 12-year hiatus, I was firmly back in the budget-brew mindset. I was just looking to have some good times.

I opened a Snapcaster Mage at the Innistrad prerelease, which I slotted into my casual illusions deck (based largely on Jacon Van Lunen's highlight of the deck in Building on a Budget). A couple months later, I cracked a second Snapcaster in a draft, and I opened a third one in a single pack of Innistrad my sister sent me for Christmas. After Dark Ascension came out, I drafted a Huntmaster of the Fells // Ravager of the Fells that I quickly traded to complete my playset.


This was a pivotal moment in my return to Magic. I now had four copies of what was pretty clearly the best card in Standard. All of a sudden, I started playing real decks. Budget brews were no longer acceptable—if I was going to spend time and money playing Magic, then it would be with the best cards, dammit. It took me a little longer to reach the same point with my mana bases (I'm ashamed to admit I played UW Delver with no Seachrome Coasts for a while), but now the very first thing I do if I'm going to play a format is pick up all the lands. Today, I couldn't imagine entering a tournament without a perfect mana base.

Looking back, it's pretty clear that attaining my first playset of an eternal-playable, "expensive" card was the turning point for me in this game. Have any of you had similar experiences? Share the story of completing your first (or favorite) major playset below.

15 thoughts on “What Was Your First Major Playset?

  1. I started playing Mtg again in 2008. After Zendikar came out, I immediately started trying to acquire the Fetches. In about a month, I had a playset of each Zendikar fetchland. I had gone from playing Treefolk in FNM to playing a competitive list and attending PTQs.

  2. My first playset of something significant was Tundra back when it was actually standard legal. Lulz @ taking the time to detail your playset of BOPs

    1. Man, I remember when BOP was super expensive and just seemed unattainable. That stuff matters when you’re a kid.

      I didn’t manage to squeeze it into the article, but a major playset for me when I was young was Tradewind Rider. I could never afford them when they were in Standard, but after they rotated a got a set and was SO happy to finally have them. They went from like $20 in Standard to $5 after rotation, but it was still thrilling.

    2. Birds were just under the top of what you find in Standard value wise. They may not be too much now, but back in ’98 you would get any Dual for 2 of them, and a Dual for 1 Bird wouldn’t be totally surprising if that Dual was a bit worn and non-blue. Don’t disrespect the Birds! 😉

      I still have that playset, during that time I traded a lot, it was the only significant playset I kept.

      Yeah, Riders were way expensive, I moved through a few during that time, but not many. Riders, Time Warps and Cursed Scrolls were even worse, you never saw those in any binders at all.

      2 years ago I completed my first playset of a good Beta rare: Nevinyrral’s Disk and now I also have a playset of Illusionary Mask, I also got the last copy for my playset of Alpha Elpish Archers last year. Yet none of those feels as special as that set of Birds. The only thing that may come close is trading for my first Power back in ’02 (an Alpha Recall), but that’s not a playset.

  3. Complete duals playset in 1995. Power 9 + 1 later that year.

    Wasn’t anywhere near as impressive as someone doing that in 2014, that’s for sure.

    Returned to paper this year with playsets of Aether Vial and ‘twin. One short of a ‘pod playset!

  4. Picked up a set of inkmoth nexus for 5 a piece when I played mono blue delver in standard. Last year I sold them at 8 each for my first two savannah’s. Cool topic btw.

  5. My big one was when I completed my playset of Duals, way back when seas were $23 and I thought it was crazy for a piece of cardstock. The first deck I did it with was the original “Rock” with spiritmongers and river boas. Those were the days lol.

  6. Back in 2001 I decided to check out this eBay thing everyone was talking about. I thought I could use the site to get rid of my old Magic cards. I was shocked to learn that my Underground Seas were worth $20 apiece. So instead of selling all my cards I decided to start buying them. I picked up several playsets of the original duals during that period. Best. Decision. Ever.

  7. I started playing back in freshman year high school in 2004, but was always a budget player; i’ve never really had the money to keep up with Standard, and the most i ever paid for a single was $4.
    I recently got back into Magic a couple months ago tho, and decided if i was going to play again, i wanted to be at least somewhat competitive, choosing Modern as my format of choice.
    I actually started paying some money to acquire cards, and I’m happy to say I’ve completed one of my very first in hopefully many playsets: I’ve finally completed my playset of all 10 shocklands.
    Next goal is using Pucatrade to complete a playset of Goblin Guides (2 so far and a 3rd one the way) and then I want a complete set of all 5 Khans Fetchlands.

  8. Back when Tarmogoyf was just starting to pick up in Standard, the price was around 35 $ a pop. At the time, I decided to get into this Legacy format that let me play with all the old cards from when I started. My first deck was Goyf Sligh (Yeah, back then the fastest aggro deck in the format played Goyfs – imagine that). I went up to one of the veterans in my store and I told him that I’d give him the two Bitterblossoms that I had obtained in a booster and a trade if he could find me a set of Goyfs for 120 $. And so he did. Back then, it seemed insane to pay that much for just four cards. Seemed even more crazy to just give him two copies of an expensive Standard card for doing the legwork. It turned out to be a good decision in the long run, of course, but yeah.

    About a year ago, I unfortunately had to sell that set of Goyfs due to some real-life issues that required just a tiny bit more money than I had available. Haven’t picked up another set since. I’d really like to get some with the new MMA art since the old one is just ugly, but between the (Admittedly small) risk of picking up a Chinese counterfeit and the insane price, it just doesn’t seem worth it…

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