The case for singles in M14

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.

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.

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.

3 thoughts on “The case for singles in M14”

  1. I wish you hadn’t written this article. I have done really well trading packs for singles, and by *FAR* have come out ahead. The idea of ripping the same card you just traded, plus extra, has gotten me many a Sphinx’s Revelation at the cost of a Guild Feud, a Sphinx of Chimes and a stray Blood Crypt

    Fortunately, most people can’t be convinced or are unable to stop treating Magic like a slot machine that you cannot possibly win, and I can keep trading packs for singles.

  2. I’ve also had a few of those boxes that just don’t work out. Yes, I buy boxes. For me though, I don’t mind losing out in terms of financial value. After all, it’s not as if each card is made of a particular crystalline carbon arrangement formed at super high temperatures and pressure. Each card is really just cardboard in the end isn’t it? This hasn’t stopped me yet, because my card skills have improved in leaps and bounds since picking up the game.
    My point is, sure it’s not the most financially viable route to take, but at least you get something out of buying a booster box, rather than gambling away loose cash at a slots row.
    For instance, I actually love most commons and uncommons. They often have better artwork than the rares or mythics, and I just marvel at the effort the artists put into each design.
    But yes, buying in boxes is generally a terrible route if you hope to get your money back. But that’s just not the point of the game, is it? If you buy boxes hoping to make a profit, you’re an idiot. If you buy boxes hoping to make a good deck, you’re playing the game correctly. MTG isn’t about money, it’s about having fun. And buying the occasional box is having fun in my opinion. It’s why some people will spend 200-300 dollars on a paintball day, or on new computer games, or on their aeromodelling gear, their chemistry set, or bowling! MTG is about having fun and if you do what you love, then the price is worth it.

  3. Let me add to my previous post, if I may.
    Buying singles is also financially a loss. Most people forget that if you buy a cheap card on, let’s say eBay, they normally have to pay a seriously overpriced postage as well. It’s just not often worth it.
    The same applies at independent gaming stores. Buying a single can leave you out of pocket of five dollars for just a single lousy rare, where there’s an uncommon with your name on it in your collection that just does the same thing.

    We must also consider the “hey bro, check this out” factor. Some people are players, other’s are collectors. I know this guy with eight Jace, the Mind Sculptor, three Jace, Memory Adept, six Jace, Architect of Thought, twelve Chandra the Firebrand… you get the picture. Actually, that guy is me. But my point still stands! I collect these cards to show off, in the same way as rich old men collect rare cars. And by buying a booster box, you may even get cards you know others want. These are the bingo cards as you can trade THEM as singles for other cards.
    To conclude, booster boxes are once again a financially stupid idea, but they do come with their peculiar bonuses.
    Also, you can’t keep a Silver Ghost in a card slip. Believe me, they just don’t fit in a pocket. Unlike a MTG card. But that’s another story!

    P.S. You can also keep the booster box for your cards and you can also make a pile of booster wrappers to hide in from your wife if need be. Again, a story for another time.

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