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Affordable Magic: The Gathering

2015.03.30 - Posted in Games And Theory Posted by:

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When trying to get into Magic: The Gathering it can become really expensive and discouraging as the collection sits mostly untouched. Here’s a way to purchase packs on the cheap, earn every card you get, make an event with friends (the backbone of any fun hobby if you ask me), and hopefully become a better player along the way.


You will need 3 other friends and enough money to split a box of boosters and a land block.

Find a nice quiet place and then have each player pick 3 packs from the pile.

We will start by first opening the packs and then picking out the 3 cards from the rear of the pack and putting them aside WITHOUT LOOKING AT THEM. The last two are filler but the 3rd from the last is the “money” card (usually a rare/mythic). Everyone puts these in a face down pile.

Each player then resumes with picking a card and then passing to the left until all cards are allocated.

Repeat the process for each pack changing the direction each turn.

In the end everyone will have picked out a set of cards to build a 40 card deck. I recommend that  you allocate 17 cards for land and have 15 creature cards if you can help it.

Now each player will play each other player in a 3 round match with all matches being required (for reasons that are obvious later).

While not necessary, a 30 second rule can keep things interesting and speed things along if desired.


Once all players have played their 3 matches of 3 rounds we will sort the players based on the number of rounds won. In the event of a tie the player with most rounds won will take precedence. If there is a tie across the board a player may choose to step down or another match where the first to win two rounds takes the higher rank.

Allocation of prizes

The cards that were originally put aside will be revealed and the chaff cards removed. The cards will then proceed to go around in draft style with the following rules:

  • As there are 12 packs between the 4 players there will be 12 “money cards” to go around.
  • 1st place gets 6 cards
  • 2nd place gets 3 cards
  • 3rd place gets 2 cards
  • 4th place gets 1 card

This means that the cards will go around 3 times with the 4th place winner only receiving 1 pick, the 3rd receiving 2 picks, the 2nd receiving 3 picks, and the remaining to 1st place.

Gaming the prize selection

To keep things interesting you can have the same rules but allow the selection to work in reverse order (IE 4th place gets first pick but only once, 3rd picks second first turn around and first on their final pick, second the same except getting first pick on their final pick). This gives a bit more of a prize to fourth place and helps to eliminate the sore loser effect amongst friends (especially when there is one player who likes to play but is clearly the weakest amongst their contemporaries).

Finally, for an added bonus, the players can choose to exchange their picks for additional turns during the picking process. This means the fourth place player can exchange his first pick to the first place player for 3 turns in the picking order or whatever.

A Vanilla Alternative

You can also just do a quick draft with all players where the order is based on ranking (1st place gets first pick, 2nd place will get second, and so on).

Financial benefits

Where I currently live there is a great shop that offers packs at 3 for $10 and a box for $100.

With this methodology, 4 players will essentially be paying about $2.78 a pack with the added bonus of choosing the cards they receive and earning their rare cards as they’ve earned.

As I will state later, I recommend doing this once a week which will make the habit… errr… hobby cost about $10 a week.

Intangible benefits

Aside from saving on packs, as I mentioned earlier you will be choosing the cards you take home with you.

You will also be getting to play with your friends over a solid nine rounds of MTG which will improve your skills as a player overall. These skills will not only come from playing but from getting to see your friends play and discover their weaknesses while sharing your strengths (not to mention strengthening your friendships… hopefully).

More than that, while you will normally only see about 45 cards from cracking 3 packs by yourself (and being stuck with said cards), the draft method I’ve described above means you’ll be spoiling 180 cards as a group. This also means that after all is said and done you will have a chance to do what these collectible cards were originally designed to be used for… trading. After putting in so much time and seeing cards in action the fun of exchange is clear if only for that session.

I recommend staggering out the matches to once a week so that you have time to think about what to do with your collection. Perhaps you will find a benefit to spending some time looking over your deck and collection to see what else you can come up with. Perhaps over time you will find your “club” doing these drafts every other week and instead getting together to battle out over your newly constructed deck in a more traditional manor.


The first drawback is that half the players will be walking away with less rare cards than they paid for. That being said, the option to pick which rare/mythic card is a very nice perk many would love to have.

This process also requires time and relying on friends to follow through with coming around. While a person can simply walk away with their 12 packs the rest of the tournament will potentially feel a bit less exciting. Your milage may vary.

You don’t get to crack a pack all to yourself in this situation. It is a great feeling getting to crack a pack and keep them all to yourself. You won’t get this here.