Monday, February 7, 2011

Artificial Shortages

I play Magic: The Gathering. I play Magic: The Gathering competitively. It's important to note this, so that one can understand that I'm not coming from the perspective of a casual player whining about the prices of individual cards so that their format non-specific Mono Blue Control deck can have a single Jace The Mind Sculptor in it to randomly win games for them. I play the game to win, because winning and fun have a direct relationship in my mind. And to win, one must obtain the best cards, and put them in the best combination to create the maximum amount of winning scenarios physically possible in their 75-card lists. But Wizards of the Coast has recently made doing so significantly more expensive.

Magic: The Gathering has a long history of having expensive cards. Tarmogoyf is a great example of this. Why was Tarmogoyf so expensive? Because it was phenomenal in every format. It was an automatic 4-of in every single list playing Green. There were almost 0 decks that weren't interested in playing it, even when Green wasn't a color they normally considered, even Faeries and Fish both played green specifically for 'goyf. There was a tremendous demand for Tarmogoyf. When the card was first released, he was relatively cheap (resting quietly at around $20 for a single copy) yet he still crept up to a high of over $100 for just a single copy of him. That's because he was in the last set of his block, which always gets drafted significantly less than the other two sets in the block. There was a legitimately low supply.

Wizards of the Coast is, first and foremost, a business. So when they saw this, they obviously decided to capitalize. Shortly after the end of Time Spiral Block, we were introduced to "Mythic" rarity. Before I go into what a mythic rare is, it's important to note that Wizards of the Coast introduced the community to mythic rare as something being done only for "flavor". Something to make process of opening packs more exciting by sometimes opening a rarer-than-normal card. They said almost explicitly that these mythic rares would not be tournament staples.

Bullshit. A mythic rare, as termed by wizards is "twice as rare" as a normal rare card (which appear in every booster pack. Each pack contains 10 commons, 3 uncommons and one rare or mythic rare). So to be twice as rare as something that occurs 1 out of every 1 pack, you'd simply have to make it appear in 1 out of every 2 packs. Right? Well, Wizards of the Coast must have an unusual way of doing their math, since they appear in approximately 1 out of every 8 packs. And that whole nonsense about not being tournament staples? Of course they are.

But not all mythics are created equal. There are mythics that are about on par with uncommon cards, and then there are the mythics that are tournament staples. Ones that are so far above the power curve that any deck that isn't using them are automatically worse than a deck that is. Ones like Jace the Mind Sculptor, who is currently resting pretty at $110 per copy. But Jace the Mind Sculptor doesn't have the demand that our friend Tarmogoyf did. He's not widely playable in anything besides Standard. He's not worth playing Blue specifically for (though he is the reason Blue is a legitimate color in Standard once again). So why is he so god damn expensive?

Because Wizards of the Coast is a business.

tl;dr
Artificial shortages created by companies, especially game companies, are shit.

22 comments:

  1. I used to play Magic: The Gathering, not competitively, but I played a lot, sometimes even small $5 local comic shop tournaments.

    I always seemed to have a weak deck though, because I just wasn't willing to shell out on expensive cards like this.

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  2. I remember this game, been ages since I've played it!

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  3. I had to quit playing MTG cause it's just too god damn expensive, especially if you're drafting.

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  4. I love MTG but nobody ever plays it here just started playing it in college lol

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  5. Drafting is the worst monetarily, although I love it as a format. Cubes are wonderful little things.

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  6. i used to play a little but mostly it was my friends who played it, and they played it alot. They had some nice cards amoung there boxes and boxes of them. They just gave me a box for free once. I should probably look up prices too see if I have anything of value and sell.

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  7. I used to play with my brother but I eventually found better things to do with my money

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  8. I never got into Magic that gathering, it does seem like a fun game though.

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  9. I would always play for fun.
    Been to a tournament and watched.
    People don't fuck around.

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  10. Same as PS3, always been curious, never had anyone to play or learn with. Sounds pretty badass though.

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  11. I never played MtG, because all of my friends were playing yu-gi-oh. As I've seen, MTG is the best card game.

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  12. Hmm, I preferred the much water-down version, Duel Masters.

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  13. My friend got really into it but I never did. I could never play competitively so I wouldn't know how you feel.

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  14. Always fun reading about MTG stuff. I never got into it that seriously but I used to play a lot

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  15. I could never to into MTG, all my mates played. I prefer Warhammer

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  16. Magic is great. Too bad no one plays in my town anymore.

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  17. I also play (competitively) and blog about M:TG.
    I *JUST* top 8'd my first ptq recently. kinda sucked.

    gotta next level these kids.

    Good post. also, you should check out 02drop.com - funny stuff and *some* good strategy.

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  18. Grats on your first top 8 man. Maybe I'll see you at a pro tour soon.

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  19. I used to play a lot casually. Never competitively. Never understood how the formats worked and there was never any competitive play near where I live.

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  20. Wow really, that's the way our economy seems to work in general lol.

    I never really played MTG specifically but I remember playing Pokemon and Yugioh all the time, magic seems a tad more complicated to me.

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