A Black Friday Shopping Guide

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Running through my neighborhood, I’m not all too surprised to see holiday decorations (mostly Christmas) being assembled this early in the season. With the pandemic looming over everyone’s heads, spreading some holiday cheer—even if earlier than usual—is a welcome break from the malaise and mundanity COVID-19 instills.

But we must remember that the U.S. holiday of Thanksgiving hasn’t passed yet! It’s this Thursday, November 26th. While the day of thanks isn’t much related to Magic, there is one component to this particular week that is relevant. I’m talking, of course, about Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

Judging by some emails I’ve been receiving, it doesn’t look like COVID-19 is going to be a wet blanket on this commercial holiday of sorts!

Cash Back Galore

It appears that this year, multiple websites are opting for a “store credit back on cash purchases” option when it comes to Black Friday incentives. This is a sneaky way of earning your repeat business by offering something that looks like a “discount”, but in reality isn’t quite so attractive.

Card Kingdom sent out an email stating they would be offering a 10% kickback in store credit on all purchases made between November 27th and November 30th. At first glance, it’s easy to confuse this promotion with a “10% off” discount, but the two are significantly different.

For one, the kickback of store credit only applies if you are paying cash—you can’t get kickback credit on purchases made with store credit! Sales tax and shipping also aren’t included in the 10% calculation. There is a cap on order size: orders over $1,000 will only net you 10% of $1,000, or $100, in-store credit. If you were hoping to get $780 back in store credit after purchasing their VG Beta Time Walk, that won’t work I’m afraid. Lastly, you may not get the store credit applied to your account until December 7th—not receiving the credit immediately is a small disappointment.

The best way to use this credit, therefore, is to purchase cards and products you were planning on buying anyway. Getting the kickback credit on sealed product is nice (not all stores are offering this), but I don’t see the 10% kickback as sufficient incentive to drive me to make additional Magic purchases from Card Kingdom. Best case scenario is I find some arbitrage opportunity and snatch up a Good (HP) Alpha or Beta card that can be flipped to ABUGames for store credit while also netting 10% back in credit at Card Kingdom.

Channel Fireball is doing a similar store credit promotion, but with some key differences. Can you find them all?

What leaps out at first is of course the larger store credit bonus: 20% is twice as good as 10%! What’s more, you can start making purchases now and receive the credit kickback—no need to wait until Black Friday for this one. It’s also neat that you receive store credit back if you buy Pokemon and Flesh and Blood singles in addition to Magic.

So far it sounds like 100% upside versus Card Kingdom’s promotion, but that isn’t strictly true. Like Card Kingdom, the store credit kickback only applies to cash purchases. What’s different is that Channel Fireball’s promotion only applies to singles purchases—no credit kickback on sealed product or gaming supplies.

You also may not see your store credit until the middle of December! So if you were hoping to get some store credit to purchase additional Christmas gifts with, you may not receive the second purchase in time for the holiday.

Now I did do some digging and I couldn’t find a cap on the promotion like Card Kingdom has. I believe that if you purchase their Damaged Beta Mox Sapphire for $5,000, you will legitimately receive $1,000 back in store credit. I don’t see any fine print that suggests otherwise, and that’s a significant kickback! So if you’ve been on the fence about purchasing a high-end card from Channel Fireball, now is definitely the time to pull the trigger.

With a full 20% back, I’m more motivated to dig for deals at Channel Fireball than I am at Card Kingdom. My initial search didn’t yield anything too exciting, but I’ll likely try again later today. While I don’t love paying retail prices for singles, then getting store credit with which to pay retail prices for cards a second time, I do view the 20% kickback as sufficiently incentivizing. I’d encourage you to hunt for deals as well.

Select Product Discounts

A couple other vendors have begun providing discounts on select products as an alternate way of driving traffic this holiday season. I haven’t seen any inspiring deals yet, but I suspect the best is yet to come.

Cool Stuff Inc has been cycling through specific discounts on various product. Today there’s a nice discount on some sealed Commander product, but not much else in the Magic space.

I originally thought they were offering a blanket 15% off all singles, but I tried adding a card to my cart and checking out and I didn’t see that 15% discount applied. Maybe I’m not clicking through the correct steps, but it was disappointing. Usually, there’s a loyalty discount for frequent shoppers, though, so if that 15% doesn’t stack then the discount is really quite tiny. I’m hoping to see some more exciting deals as Black Friday approaches.

Star City Games has been offering various discounts on specific products over the past couple weeks. Here’s the deal available today (Sunday):

I suspect if you’re in the market for some sleeves, binders, and playmats, this is a fairly attractive discount. I’m personally not in the market for supplies, so I’m hoping by the time you’re reading this article, the new deal of the week is live and is more relevant to me. I’m hoping Star City Games is also saving their best deals for last as Black Friday approaches.

Two other sites I’ll be watching closely as Black Friday approaches are ABUGames and Troll and Toad. Both have offered some form of Black Friday promotion in the past, but it’s not clear what that’ll be this year. ABUGames has no indication of a Black Friday deal on their site, so hopefully we see an update soon.

Troll and Toad is offering small deals as part of a “Black Friday” countdown.

I’m hoping to see some significantly discounted singles and sealed product this year. I seem to recall buying singles at buylist pricing during their Black Friday promotions in years past. Those are my favorite kinds of deals: rather than try to find something well-priced, receiving store credit, and then having to find another card at a great price, just give me a steal of a price to begin with and save me the hassle! Of course, this retailer strategy doesn’t drive the repeat traffic that store credit kickbacks incentivize, but odds are higher that a store will get my holiday cash if they offer discounts upfront.

Wrapping It Up

Without additional information, it’s difficult to write up more heading into this Black Friday and Cyber Monday season. I’ll leave you with a couple bits of advice, reflecting how I approach this season.

First, be picky with your cash. I have limited Magic funds in my PayPal account. While it’s tempting to jump on the first deal I see (that 20% Channel Fireball kickback is extremely tempting), keep in mind that actual Black Friday hasn’t even arrived yet! A better deal from a different website could be in the works. And if you don’t find anything on Black Friday, it’s still not too late as many retailers offer separate Cyber Monday deals as well.

Second, be decisive. If Troll and Toad or another vendor lists various singles at buylist pricing this week, you won’t have a ton of time to hem and haw over the purchase. If it’s a great deal, chances are it’ll sell out quickly. Therefore I encourage you to have some principles in advance about how much you want to spend, what in particular you want to shop for, and what you’re willing to pass. The more prepared you are, the more quickly you can act when you see the deals pour in.

Lastly, make sure you do treat yourself if you have the funds to do so. The year 2020 has been one of the toughest in the history of the world, given this pandemic. Money doesn’t buy happiness, but purchasing a few special cards at a great price is a nice way to reward yourself for making it through this horrendous year. Magic mail is always exciting, but it only comes if you put up the money necessary. If you can stretch your dollar a little further this holiday season by leveraging some Black Friday promotions, I say go for it!

Maybe that’s one upside to the store credit kickback option? It’s awkward to receive the credit two weeks after you make a purchase, but then you get to shop again and received yet another piece of MTG mail! If one Magic package is good, then two is surely better, right? Yet another reason to partake in this season’s Black Friday deals. Happy shopping and good luck to everyone!

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Sigmund Ausfresser

Sigmund first started playing Magic when Visions was the newest set, back in 1997. Things were simpler back then. After playing casual Magic for about ten years, he tried his hand at competitive play. It took about two years before Sigmund starting taking down drafts. Since then, he moved his focus towards Legacy and MTG finance. Now that he's married and works full-time, Sigmund enjoys the game by reading up on trends and using this knowledge in buying/selling cards.

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