All posts by Cliff Daigle

I am a husband, father, teacher, and EDH fanatic. My joy is in Casual and Limited formats, though I dip a toe into Constructed when I find something fun to play. I play less than I want to and more than my schedule should really allow. I write intermittently at wordofcommander.blogspot.com and can easily be reached on Twitter @WordOfCommander.

The case for singles in M14

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By Cliff Daigle

So now that Magic 2014 is out, what’s a casual player to do?

Here is a tip that I’ve learned through hard experience: In most cases, buying a box to open the packs is a terrible idea.

There are reasons to buy lots of packs, mainly the fun of opening 36 or more at a time, but financially, they aren’t a winner. If you want to buy a box, throw the loose packs onto your bed and roll around in them, and revel in what *could* be in those packs, then by all means do so. I may or may not have done similar things.

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Just don’t kid yourself about the value and the money you spent.

There’s ample anecdotal evidence to suggest that you often don’t get a playset of a certain uncommon in your 36 packs, much less multiples of a certain money rare. And while most boxes have a foil rare or mythic, it’s not always true. I’ve opened such foil-rare-less boxes.

We have another issue present, when you buy loose packs from Amazon or a store that doesn’t store packs in the booster display: box mapping. By calculating a print run, you can open just a few packs in a box, take the money cards, and sell the packs you know contain chaff. It’s real and it’s effective. I haven’t done it, but the math is there and the YouTube videos are certainly convincing. Look up the user MTGBoxMapper if you really want to see why you shouldn’t buy loose packs.

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Here are the exceptions to my policy of ‘no packs’: Sealed and Draft events. In this case, you’re paying not just for the packs, but for the tournament and the chance to win more. I like these formats more than Standard, but they are more expensive. I recognize that a lot of cards are not money cards, yet they are very good in Limited formats. I don’t mind paying for the experience of playing, especially because Standard isn’t always fun for me.

My wife and I have indulged in two-person drafting as well. We buy six packs, shuffle up the cards, and engage in a two-person draft, usually with the Solomon style but sometimes wegoWinston. We can usually get two drafts out of the same six packs, but again, we are buying the experience, not the value of the cards.

Everyone has a story of some amazing pack they opened. At the Magic 2013 Celebration, one of my prize packs had a Thundermaw Hellkite and a foil Jace, Memory Adept. But I’ve also opened an awful lot of bulk rares, so I try not to let the outliers affect my perception.

Make no mistake: Opening a pack of Magic: the Gathering cards is a gamble in strict financial terms. You’re scratching a ticket/pulling off the packaging in hopes of something more valuable than the cost of the ticket/pack.

The emotional thrill of opening packs is exactly the thrill you get from roulette or slot machines or anything that casinos make a mint off of. I know a guy who is addicted to buying $8 packs of Worldwake, because once in a while, he opens a Jace, the Mind Sculptor and it only cost him $8! What an amazingly lucky guy!

Except I know that for every post he makes on Facebook showing his $150 card that cost him $8, he’s bought at least 30 other packs that cost him $240, and the other cards he’s opened don’t come close to the $90 gap.

If you have to have certain cards, get them as singles. Don’t buy the packs and hope to get lucky. Be discerning, and target only what you need. Trade for it if you can, but don’t gamble your cash on packs.

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Prerelease: Keep or Trade?

We are thrilled to introduce Cliff D! Cliff has managed to foil out an EDH deck on a budget and maintains a blog at wordofcommander.blogspot.com. Welcome Cliff!

My name is Cliff, and I’m a Magic addict.

I tell you this because as a husband and a father, it’s a big deal to have a hobby like Magic. It’s got the potential to be a very expensive hobby, and I’ve spent years figuring out how to spend the least and get the most of what I want.

Today I want to share one of my best tips with you, something that has kept me from spending too much on this game I love a little too much.

In one sentence, here it is: Trade everything you open at the prerelease.

This goes against everything in my nature as a casual player. I have nine EDH decks, and with every new set, there’s some maintenance I have to do. So my urge, and probably yours, is to get things as soon as possible, to get that upkeep done and the decks finished. Don’t do it!

There is evidence, all over this site, of cards that opened big and didn’t ever get more expensive than they were the first week. That week is now, and you need to cash in.

For example: At the Return to Ravnica prerelease, I opened a Vraska the Unseen. After tearing up matches with it, I traded it for a pair of Abrupt Decay and a Guildpact Stomping Grounds. Now, I’d be even trading the Vraska for a single Decay.

Vraska the Unseen. Oct 2012 - June 2013.
Vraska the Unseen. Oct 2012 – June 2013.

If you have to have four of a card for that following FNM, so be it, but let me tell you, you don’t want to be the guy trading super-hard for Rise of the Dark Realms at the prerelease. Almost everything in this set, and every other set, will go down in price within a couple of weeks. Our most recent example is classic: Dragon’s Maze has very few cards worth more than the cost of a pack at retail, so I hope you got rid of them all when you opened them.

Magic 2014 looks to be similar. There’s a lot of awesome casual cards in this set, and most of them will be at or near bulk pretty quickly. It will not be long before you hear someone groan at opening “another stupid Primal Bounty?!” This is the only weekend where people will be actively trying to get this card; trade it to them accordingly.

My exception might — MIGHT — be Scavenging Ooze. This is going to be interesting. If I had to pick a card to go up in the long term, this would be it, because it seems like it will be good in all three Constructed formats. I’m aware that it is a Duels promo, so anyone who wants to buy the game in Steam can get a foil of this for $10. I’d still be willing to trade it away this weekend, though.

If you want to keep the sweet foils you open, do so, and I understand completely the urge to GET IT NOW WOW!! But you’re now making the informed choice to keep it, when you could sell at the probable top of the market. I jumped at the chance to trade for a foil Aurelia, the Warleader at the Gatecrash Prerelease, and I got it plus a regular for my Polluted Delta.

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Let me leave you with the graphs of those cards, and I’ll let you decide which side you want to be on, just a couple of months later.

Aurelia, the Warleader. Foil. Jan - June 2013.
Aurelia, the Warleader. Foil. Jan – June 2013.
Aurelia, the Warleader. Non-foil. Jan-June 2013.
Aurelia, the Warleader. Non-foil. Jan – June 2013.
Polluted Delta. Non-foil. Jan - June 2013.
Polluted Delta. Non-foil. Jan – June 2013.
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