Tobold's Blog
Tuesday, August 04, 2015
Mr. Suitcase

From 1994 to 2000 I played Magic the Gathering with actual cards, as opposed to virtual cards. And I was the type of player we used to call "Mr. Suitcase", having a collection of cards so big that I literally needed a metal suitcase to store it in. I spent about $1,000 per year buying cards, and I didn't buy single boosters but boxes of 36 boosters. Now the actual boosters contained (and still contain) 15 cards, of which only 1 is a rare, 3 are uncommon, and 11 are common. But as an edition had about equal numbers of different rares, uncommons, and commons, you ended up with a big excess of commons when you bought enough boosters to get every rare. So when I saw that Magic Duels: Origins has 6-card boosters, containing 1 rare, 2 uncommons, and 3 commons, I considered that an advantage, because it means less excess commons.

As I previously mentioned I paid €40 for 50 boosters in Magic Duels Origins, because by buying the maximum amount of gold at once I paid only €0.80 per booster, while buying them one by one costs €2 per booster. But given my previous experience with Magic the Gathering I thought that 50 boosters would still be very far from a complete set. Turns out I was wrong, looking through my card collection I see that it is already nearly complete. How can that be? It turns out that Magic Duels Origins has a casual player friendly system of rarity restrictions and smart boosters: You can only ever own 1 of each mythic rare, 2 of each rare, 3 of each uncommon, and 4 of each common (as opposed to being able to put 4 of each card in a paper deck). If you open a booster, the cards in the booster are not completely random, but a random selection of the cards that you don't have the maximum of yet. You never find excess cards in boosters.

So the 251 different cards in the Magic Duels Origins set result in a "complete collection" of just 800 cards, of which you get 320 for free as starting set. That leaves 480 cards to get from boosters, or 80 boosters. You get 8 free boosters from doing the tutorial and story missions, which leaves just 72 boosters to collect. Me buying 50 boosters just left me with 22 boosters to buy with gold. You can get about 3 boosters per day due to a 400 coin daily limit (not including quest rewards), but even though I play far less than that it is possible that I'll get a complete Origins collection without paying more than my initial €40. If you never played Magic the Gathering paying €40 for an iPad game probably appears to be a lot of money. But for a MtG collector, €40 per set looks rather cheap. It also means that any attempt to "pay to win" is hard capped at €60.

Back in my days, WotC launched a basic edition now and then, and then every year one big set and two small sets. If that is still the case it would cost me about $100 per year to be Mr. Suitcase in Magic Duels. Which, again, is a lot for an iPad game, but a factor 10 cheaper than I used to pay. The only downside is that I can't build every deck that the paper version can build, because of the rarity restrictions. More casual players would probably consider that a good thing, because decks with lots of rares tended to annoy the players who had spent less money on their collection.

Note that Magic Duels is thus much cheaper than Magic the Gathering Online. And as far as I know (haven't played MtGO for years), MtGO doesn't have a single-player mode versus AI. Which is something I prefer after years of experience with players behaving badly.

I bet Wizards of the Coast loved you!

Considering that it had already been clearly established that people were willing to pay big money to amass the "perfect" collection, I have to question the new policy of giving such a bulk deal on boosters. Especially considering you can't get cards that won't fit in your card database.

Won't you just "finish" your collection, then figure out all possible decks and be bored with the game faster?

Free to play schemes rely on "whales" to pay the bills. It only works if casual player cannot become whales themselves just through normal play.

I don't know how much you have to play to earn 400 coins, but it looks like it's possible to max your card database in under a month even if you never pay at all.
I think many F2P games rely on whales. But I've played at least one f2P game that was probably making most of it's money off regular players instead of whales. And the cost for this MtG game seems to be pretty reasonable so far as games go and especially so for MtG.

The limits on rares and such I think is actually a really good idea so far as balancing the game goes. I only play MtG once every few years now. But when I do it always seems to be a pure game of chance based on who draws their perfect hand and wins the game on turn 3 or 4. By limiting the number of rares you can use, building a deck purely around 1 combination that is an automatic win is going to lose a lot more than it'll win.
It may not cost you any more at all to pick up new sets as they are released as long as they continue to let you earn gold even after you have all 80 boosters. You will be playing 2 or more months, earning gold, before the next set is released and, quite possibly, have enough gold to buy all of the boosters that make up the new set.

Of course, Wotc may see that that is happening and adjust things to make sure there is a continual inflow of cash required for each new set (if you want to reduce the grind time).
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