The Problem with $10 Packs

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Most players know that the list price on a pack of Magic cards isn't exact. When you consider the fact that you could open a rare or foil worth more than the cost of the pack, in addition to the fact that one can and should only open packs in drafts, thus offering the opportunity to earn prizes in the form of even more packs, then the price of a booster can be trivial...assuming a healthy amount of luck.

That's the problem with $10 packs. If I pay $12 for a draft, open no money rares, and get knocked out in the first round, I'm bummed out, and I feel like my $12 went to waste. That's a small enough amount of money that I won't personally dwell on it for very long, but for some players, especially students, that $12 could represent a large portion of one's Magic budget.


The flipside of the situation is that one could open a plansewalker and win the draft, thus coming out well ahead of the initial investment. Besides the not-worthless monetary value of the fun of playing the game, the potential for gains like this is why we're willing to pay $12 for packs of cardstock with pretty colors and pictures. It's not a huge risk, and even a string of bad luck in five straight drafts will only put you down $60.

Then we get Modern Masters sets. Here we are getting into risky territory even for gainfully employed players. The potential rewards are higher—a foil Tarmogoyf could literally pay one's rent—but so are the risks.


I mentioned yesterday that my LGS charged $40 for single-elimination drafts, and in the four I did, I experienced exactly zero success. A year and a half later, I still remember this, and I can't pretend $160 is something I can just shrug off.

And that's the real risk for players in this trend of increasing booster pack prices for special products. Sure, if you 2-1 most of your drafts and open an average amount of money cards, you can draft the set a whole bunch for free or darn close to it. But when a string of bad luck can wipe out your MTGO ticket stash or your entire Magic budget for the month, that's not cool.

Jason made a good point in his comment on yesterday's article...


...and he's right, the increased supply will lower prices in general. Even the super-limited print run of Modern Masters lowered prices of most cards in that set. But for those of us who just want to draft and don't care about card prices except for how much we can sell them for, a $10 pack feels like a slap in the face, and we can't just wait for those pack prices to go down after supply fills the market, since the opposite is almost certainly going to happen.

You can't blame WOTC for wanting to make more money—it's the whole point of having a for-profit business, after all. But as a rule, the company has always stayed out of the singles market, and the increasing price of Modern Masters sets essentially makes that no longer the case. WOTC has figured out that it can charge more for sets with more powerful cards. What the company does with that knowledge will have a huge impact on the playerbase moving forward. Let's hope the long-term health of the game takes priority over short-term profits.

Danny Brown

Danny is a Cube enthusiast and the former Director of Content for Quiet Speculation.

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Posted in Free, ModernTagged

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23 thoughts on “The Problem with $10 Packs

  1. I seems like that is every businesses strategy right now. They are trying to soak as much money as possible in the the short term because they have no faith in the long term outlook of the economy. However, its because they are using such strategies that the long term looks so bleak. They are causing their own downfall. Wizards has been migrating to this slowly ever since the take over from Hasbro.

  2. The first MMA was designed to be drafted. It was a good environment. I got to experience it exactly two times. Once in store and once from a free pod I was given on MTGO for assistance in the closed beta.

    It’s too expensive for me to draft and I have a 6-digit salaried job.

    The new price is a huge slap. I won’t pay $50 for the privelege of watching someone else at the table open a goyf and win before we even get to play (which does in fact kill all of the fun).

    Hell, the dozens of Internet posts with people lucky enough to buy boxes at real MSRP compared to the $200 “discounted” price I was given by my LGS that I’ve supported for nearly 20 years was a follow up kick in the nuts.

    I’m not at all excited about this product.

      1. That is not a fact. it is your opinion. I can see the logic in $50+ per draft being too expensive. At that price point it is no longer “play money” that is being spent. That is fine dining kind of money.

        1. It’s not unreasonable to make a lot of money and decide something isn’t worth the price tag attached to it. That said, it’s a bit dishonest too say “it’s too expensive for me” when you can easily afford it.

          1. It’s not dishonest. You don’t know his financial situation, how large his family, what portion of his salary he is putting away for retirement etc. etc. On the flip side of that it is very possibly that someone with a 30k a year job might say yeah I can afford to do this a week cause their house/car/education are all paid off and they don’t have any dependents. I’m not going to get in to this too much but please don’t tell someone what they can or can’t afford based on a given (or not so given) salary. Stay classy QS…

  3. Not all products are made for every person. Priced out of this one? That’s fine, it happens. The secondary market has consistently shown WoTC that their side products like Modern Masters are worth more than MSRP, so I don’t blame them at all for raising it. And the product will still sell out.

    $10 could very well be justified based off of what’s in the set (of which we only know 2 cards for certain). If you don’t care about that sort of thing and only want to get the draft experience – again, not every product is for every person. If MM drafts are out of your price range there will be Khans Block drafts to do. Or Cube. I’m sure many stores still have Conspiracy product on the shelves if you’re looking for a more unique drafting experience.

    WoTC isn’t trying to offend you; they just aren’t always catering to you. And that’s okay.

  4. IMO- we will have to wait and see ‘what’ exactly the release is….meaning if WOTC again designed mm2015 strictly as a draft set with a few chase cards..and dumped a bunch of Kawigawa mythics just to prop it up for ‘draft’ reasons…I agree and can’t support the increase in packs cost….but if they added ‘good’ cards instead it could be fun and profitable…here’s hoping for the later

  5. This could be especially bad for online players. IIRC we payed msrp for boosters online (and usually a little less buying from bots) and didn’t experience above-msrp prices like most live players. It’s possible live packs end up selling at msrp (if they don’t have a similar trend to last time because they are more “correctly” priced) and only the online market is hurt by the new price tag. It also doesn’t help that most singles are worth more in paper than online.

  6. WotC figured out how much it can charge for MM2015 by noting what people were willing to pay for MMA. People lined up to pay ~$10/pack for MMA, so as long as MM2015 is on par with that set in terms of print run and quality card inclusion, WotC has no reason to think that people WON’T pay $10 for this set too. If they print a huge amount and/or fill it with bulk rares, then yes, the product will tank, but I’m pretty sure they’re savvy enough to avoid making such mistakes; this ain’t 1995.

    I don’t really agree with Jason’s tweet based on what happened with MMA. There was only a short window where card prices dipped due to the supply influx from MMA, and the pricier cards (e.g., Bob) saw the smallest drops and they also quickly rebounded to much higher prices (e.g., Goyfs roughly doubled in price). Those pricey items are the cards that are the barrier to Modern entry. No one is avoiding the format due to $7 Serum Visions or $12 Remands; it’s the $50+ rares and mythics that form the real barrier. Based on what happened with Bob, Goyf, Clique, etc, MMA did not really help lower the barrier; the increased supply was vastly outpaced by the increased interest/demand, which pushed prices in the wrong direction re: lowering the entry barrier.

    If folks really want to get a message across, the only effective way is to not buy the product. Don’t buy at $10/pack and WotC won’t charge that much for packs in the future. I think it’s a pretty safe bet, however, that people will be lined up with their $10 bills eagerly waiting to turn them into MM2015 boosters unless WotC pulls a real boneheaded move with the card selection or the print run.

  7. “Let’s hope the long-term health of the game takes priority over short-term profits.”

    This last statement of yours couldn’t be more wrong. Huge company profits are the single best thing to ensure the continued health of the game. If WOTC sees the continued potential to make large sums of $ then they will continue to invest in R&D and will be careful about how and when they reprint cards. The first modern masters packs couldn’t really be found for under $10/ pack anyway. Since stores were just charging above MSRP for their product and people still bought, WOTC decided to raise the MSRP and keep more profit for themselves rather than the LGS. Since players were obviously willing to pay $10/pack of the first modern masters they saw the opportunity to raise their price. I will never begrudge a business for charging what people are willing to pay. Now if the set is a flop and the value of the cards included doesn’t justify the price then the set won’t sell well and their profits will suffer as a result. But let’s at least see what the value of the set looks like before raising the pitchforks and raiding WOTC HQ.

    The amount of comments I read on the internet from people that lack any knowledge of economics is astonishing.

  8. The reality is – the LGS’ will most certainly charge more than MSRP for a highly sought after and “limited” print run anyways. WOTC is simply taking more of that possibility away from the LGS – IMO it will probably create less of a “feelbad” scenario than this: “Hell, the dozens of Internet posts with people lucky enough to buy boxes at real MSRP compared to the $200 “discounted” price I was given by my LGS that I’ve supported for nearly 20 years was a follow up kick in the nuts.” if most people already expect $10 packs versus $7 packs that are instantly priced at $10-15. The reality is most will charge at LEAST that much ANYWAYS. Why does it matter who that person (WOTC or the LGS) is from the player stand point? Now I can understand from the LGS standpoint why they’d be upset. It means the guaranteed sick profits won’t be there. Or maybe they will and the LGS’ will charge $20/pack!

  9. In my area, we have a store which carries older packs. People are already willing to shell out money on Urza’s Legacy packs/etc. These will be the same people who will buy the MM15 product, regardless of price. If they are willing to pay $10 on an Alliances pack (which has almost no value outside of FoW), they will buy these by the fistful.

  10. I think people misunderstand the point of the modern masters sets. Yes wizards will tell you that the point is to help lower the cost for entry into modern… But it’s not. Wizards one and only goal is to increase the number of people who are playing magic. Yes lowering the cost of singles may assist that, but it’s really just the means to an end. Mm was a resounding success in getting people interested in playing the modern format which is why prices of things like goyf and bob continued to rise. In addition you all have to remember “bulk rares” are neccesary. Yeah we hate opening them, you no one wants to buy them but here’s what you’re missing -wotc’s customers are retailers and lgs first and us second. We aren’t buying boxes directly from them so they need to keep them happy. If they’re printing a set full of things like snapcaster/fulminater Mage at rare they will crash the singles market which is the bread and butter of many an lgs. If they don’t feel confidant that supporting the game will make them money they won’t which is the worst thing that can happen for the game

    1. Except that it will be a set full of cards that have nothing to do with modern constructed decks in order to make an interesting, but overpriced, limited set.

      Shock land, Thoughtseize and Fetchland reprints currently disprove your point on crashing the price of singles. Yes, they all came down, but they did not crash, the sky did not in fact fall.

      This set has no goal with the player in mind.

  11. I think this is a bad direction for WotC and will do long term damage. Treating the most serious customers like dirt will see them leave. this move (EV+ a few bucks booster pricing) is basically the same as Tarmogoyf +14 tip cards is special boosters for $199. I am certain there was a promise or an implied promise that they would not take secondary market prices into account.

  12. My concern is losing the value in the cards I’ve collected over the last 16 years. That is what turns me off this product. I’ve bought their products faithfully, and now they’re just gonna cherry pick the value back to themselves. Time will tell I suppose.

    1. I don’t know what faith you’ve bought under since the reserve policy has been a statement concerning their willingness to reprint anything for any reason for years. If you’re worried about the value of your cards, turn them into something that always has liquid value like cash or put them into something that can’t be reprinted on the reserved list.

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