The Art of the Impulse Buy

Or, How I Learned to Make Stupid Decisions Regarding Magic Repacks and Came Out Ahead (Kind Of).

My worst habits are all Magic-related. I have a tendancy to pick up Magic-related items which otherwise would be filed under “Reasonably Poor Ideas,” like I’m genetically engineered for bad impulse buys. The sad part is that they usually turn out well for me before turning around and biting me in the ass. Take, for example, the veritable mire of repacks you can find in your local hypermart. Through poor impulse control and unbridled curiosity, at some expense to my wallet, we’re now able to differentiate the quality and style of your average Target repacks compared to, say, those at Wal-Marts or the local Meijer. We’ve also honed down the likelihood one of the two-dollar half packs is to have a Mythic or Rare in a given bunch. (The answer is, on predictable average, one Mythic or normal Rare per five half-packs, if three people each buy five packs simultaneously, after dark, provided you haven’t mined the store too deeply or greedily, or find them already sold-out by Middle Schooler purchases.)

And by lucky, I mean really lucky. Some of the Target $9 repacked theme decks turned out to be from the Elves vs. Goblins Duel Decks; you know, half of the Duel Decks currently going for $60-125 on eBay right now. An impulse buy on one of the “$5 for one 10th Edition booster plus fifty random crap cards” got me the better half of a Kamigawa samurai deck (no lands) in the “crap” pile, with a Shivan Dragon in the booster. (Don’t knock it, I can use those.) The next also had a Shivan Dragon in the 10th Ed pack, and the “crap cards” included a dozen dollar rares and a stack of Urza’s block uncommons (Worn Powerstone!). But these things are balanced against the buyer; most of the other booster repacks were filled with lands or those crappy “advancement” boosters you found in the old Core Set learn-to-play kits, and I won’t admit to how many Time Spiral land packs we found hunting for more good land repacks.

So, I guess it’s no real surprise when I convinced myself to buy one of the new Deck Builder’s Toolkits. (“An Instant Collection!”) They cost $20, and supposedly come with everything a new player needs: a deck-builder’s guide, 100 lands, 125 semi-random cards, four booster packs, and a shiny new box, too. $20 is the cost of the four boosters, but “semi-random cards” and a blatant vagueness of the quality of these things? Sounds like crap, right? Well then, I obviously had to investigate just how crappy they are.

The boosters ended up being from relatively new sets, as I’d assumed; these are official WotC, and had to conform with the current Type II (or even current block) environment. The result was Conflux, M10, Zendikar, and WorldWake. The lands were all M10, and while we were hoping for full-art, they were standard framed. As for the “125 semi-random cards,” the word “crap” does define them well. About 60% were from the full Zendikar/Eldrazi block, while 40% were from M10. By “semi-random,” they meant no rares, about 25-30 uncommons, and duplicates of two “important” commons per color (Child of Night for black, of all things, manaelves for green, etc.). The uncommons had some good cards (Serra Angel, Overrun, and a lot of blue “I want that creature” enchantments), but nothing truly spectacular. The “deck builder’s guide” was a laughably mediocre fold-out explaining color combinations like green/white, white/red, white/blue, and deck archetypes like “Elves!” and “Vampires.” (This now makes me wonder about the push for black Vampire weenies in this post-Twilight world… but that’s another post.)

To recap: mostly M10 and Zendikar block, lots of commons, a few uncommons, M10 lands, bad rules. In a shiny box. Have I mentioned the shiny box? The only thing saving this for me was the fact I didn’t buy enough M10, and didn’t buy any Zendikar besides the Vampires precon since my Magic group dried up, so most of the cards were new and interesting. For an experienced player, there’s no reason to buy these unless you need some more staples, like bolts and manaelves and Ulamog’s Crushers (I got two). I’m not sure I’d buy another one, unless I needed another shiny box, simply because of the lack of rares.

But these are a steal for the inexperienced player: buy four current booster packs, and for free you get enough land and spare cards to make crappy decks and learn the game better. In fact, I’m a big fan of the promoted idea for these things: have each player buy one, and use it as a mini-sealed, building a deck out of the packs, random chaff, and land included. That sounds kind of fun, and helps WotC by encouraging Limited play. When I first started out playing Magic, I bought a couple longboxes full of cards off eBay which ended up being mostly Ice Age (and later, Mercadian) commons, but back then, sifting through a pile of Chub Toads to find the uncommons was awesome. This is kind of like the next step: younger players love getting oodles of new cards, regardless of quality, and quantity is always a drawing point.

But, like I said, I’m lucky. First purchase and I pull a manabirds from my M10 pack, thus recouping a partial profit from this entire inane enterprise. Which I guess means I’m ahead since I also got a shiny box. (In other news, who else remembers when manabirds cost $20?)

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