How to Play Magic: The Gathering Part 9: Growing Your Collection

Wizards of the Coast releases a number of products every year. Some contain new cards while others may contain valuable reprints. These product lines come and go all the time, such is the nature of products in any industry. Also like every other industry, some of the products are not worth the money. In this post I’ll go over some do’s and don’ts for growing your collection in the most cost efficient way.

Do NOT buy booster packs. Booster packs are for draft. The MSRP (manufacturer’s suggested retail price) for a booster pack from a current standard set is about $4 while those from premium sets come in around $10. The odds of you getting your money’s worth is slim. I’ll admit it is fun to crack open packs when a new set is released, but if you’re on a budget I and most of the community would advise against it. Don’t believe me? Run down to your local game store and buy a handful of packs, open them, then use an online pricing guide such as TCGplayer to compare the total value of the cards you got versus the money you spent to get them. You might get lucky and get a $20+ card in one of those packs, but what about the others? $2, $1, $.50? Most often, you come away short rather than ahead. Kind of sounds like gambling, doesn’t it? Consider if you pulled the cards below. It would be great to get a Jace from Masters 25, but what if you got Akroma, that stupid tree, or Doomsday? All three of those are worth less than the $10 you would pay for the packs. Consider that you didn’t get the Jace and instead got another $2 rare or mythic.

What you should spend your money on is singles. Singles refers to cards that have already been opened from booster packs so you know what you are getting. Your local game store should be selling single cards, if not, there are online retailers. This is the best way to grow your collection and build decks. If you already know what kind of deck you want to play, you can maximize your money by spending it only on the cards you need instead of bulk cards that will go into a shoe box once you figure out how bad they really are, or spending hundreds or thousands of dollars on booster packs to find a playset of the rares and mythics you need. If you want to experiment playing with cards before you buy them, you can make proxies of cards by printing them out from the internet or just writing down the card’s information on a piece of paper cut to card size and sticking it into a card sleeve in front of an extra card you aren’t using, maybe an extra land for example, and playing a few rounds with a friend to get a feel for the deck and see if those cards are really what you need.

Be careful when purchasing sealed products like preconstructed decks. While these can contain valuable reprints, consider how much value you are getting out of it before you buy. You can see the deck lists for these products before they are released on the official magic website, not to mention unboxing videos and analysis from other outlets. I will say that the preconstructed commander decks have traditionally been good deals in the past and I would highly recommend picking one up if you want to get into EDH. The majority of them offer some valuable reprints, powerful new cards, and a deck that is perfectly playable right out of the box for commander night.

If you are entierly new to MTG and don’t have any cards or haven’t quite master the game yet, I would suggest buying a bulk collection to get you started. These can be found on Amazon or Ebay. This will let you throw a deck together so you can practice. This is the only time I would suggest doing this and only do it once to jumpstart your collection. If you have already mastered the game and have quite a few cards for practice, the only thing I would recommend buying is a bunch of basic lands. In your early days of playing, having enough lands is important for practice, but these are easy to come by and extremely cheap.

Speaking of lands, these should be the first part of a deck that you buy. Get them while they are cheap, if you can. Fetch lands, shock lands, pain lands, check lands, utility lands… having the right manabase for the right format is so important for your deck run as smoothly as possible! (I will expound on this in a later post) Lands are also interchangeable between decks, for example, a grixis control deck would be running lands that would also be included in a typical dimir mill or izzet storm.

You can also sell cards that you don’t need anymore. Most local game stores will buy them off you, not for their full value of course (they have to make money somehow), but if it’s just sitting in your binder, probably never going to come out again, why not sell or trade it for something that you will play? Online, you can get full price when you sell directly to another player.

So to recap:

A) don’t buy booster packs

B) be careful when considering a sealed product

C) figure out what you want to build before you start to buy

D) stick to buying singles

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