Is Modern too expensive? (Video Debate w/ Tolarian Academy’s The Professor)

Hey folks.

This week we’ve got some juicy video content for you. Last week, The Professor from The Tolarian Academy YouTube channel stated his case for Modern being too expensive as a format. Here is the original video:

After viewing the video, I had a lot of notes for the professor so we started talking. After a brief chat, we quickly established that a) we were unlikely to ever agree on the fundamentals of the debate on hand and b) it might be interesting for folks to get both sides of the debate in order to drive further discussion.

The professor was good enough to offer to post my rebuttal to his arguments on his YouTube channel, and here is the result for your consideration:

You can find the full script of my segments here, in case you wanted to review my arguments in text form.

Now I should point out that a key segment from the video was cut out in error, and we can’t easily double back on that at this point, so for the record, here is the script from the segment that should have been inserted just before 3:21 in the video.

  • So, let’s dive in.
  • Firstly, comparing the cost of a board game to the cost of a Modern deck, is little different than comparing the cost of a frisbee to the cost of a fully loaded gaming computer or a full set of snowboarding gear. Both alternatives provide entertainment but at vastly different price points to the frisbee. Does this mean that snowboarding and video gaming are “too expensive” and that the price of these activities should be aggressively reduced to more effectively compete with frisbee? Certainly not. The value of every gaming experience is relative, and it’s up to us to decide which experiences we value most and what we’re willing to pay for them.
  • In relative terms, Magic could be considered to be a medium cost hobby. Magic is far more expensive than a frisbee or a deck of cards, but far less expensive than a sailboat, a golf club membership or regular ski trips. Heck, at $30 for popcorn and a movie, or $80 for a mainstream video game, committed movie buffs and video gamers also spend at a rate comparable to a good Modern deck.
  • The reality is that competitive Magic: The Gathering is designed for the committed player who makes Magic a primary hobby, and it is priced accordingly.
  • Most competitive Standard decks are cheaper than Modern decks, with costs typically landing between $100 and $400, depending on the season. Standard decks however are much much susceptible to shifts in the meta game and only last for a maximum of two years.
  • Also, claiming that Modern is essential to encouraging Standard play because it provides an outlet for rotating Standard cards is also fairly loose since 95% of Standard cards are not good enough for Modern, and again, this is by design.
  • Draft and sealed players can also easily spend $500+ per annum.
    It is also worth pointing out that though The Professor was holding up his $1000 UB Faeries deck as an average deck, there are actually a significant number of more competitive Modern decks available in the $500-$700 range. This list would include Burn, Eldrazi Tron, Dredge, Affinity, Merfolk, Tron, Ad Nauseum, Elves and Titan Shift.
  • This list represents a diverse array of options, that while significantly more expensive than a single board game, will still compare favorably to many sports and gaming hobbies in terms of long term value.
  • We should also at least touch on the concept of retail price theory, which would suggest that the difference in participation and sales of Modern related cards and products are highly unlikely to change whether average decks are $450, $650 or $850. See, all of those numbers are still pretty large from the perspective of a casual Magic player.
  • Would Modern participation change if decks averaged $99? Well, yes, almost certainly, but we’ll talk about why that wouldn’t be a good thing in a moment.
  • Carry on at 3:22

    So in keeping with my final challenge at the end of the video, what is the “correct” price for the average Modern deck and why?

    James Chillcott is the CEO of, The Future of Collecting, Senior Partner at Advoca, a designer, adventurer, toy fanatic and an avid Magic player and collector since 1994.