Ultimate Masters’ Price Point Alienates Magic: The Gathering Players
Wizards of the Coast is releasing their Ultimate Masters’ set with reprints and foils of some cards that are really iconic and people have been asking for, like my personal thirst trap, Liliana of the Veil. However, due to the price point, the box topper and the dismissal of the average gamer has put a bad taste in a lot of people’s mouths.
This set, which is coming out next month, is part of Magic’s 25-year anniversary celebration. It contains 254 cards (101 common, 80 uncommon, 53 rare, and 20 mythic rare) and cards from across the history of Magic. Some will also be getting new art and new flavor text as part of the release.
It’s is an exciting idea, especially since with each full set will be a box topper (a special masterpiece card) that includes an exclusive foil card. Right now the MSRP is $13.99 per booster pack, $335.76 per set, and $34.99 per blister pack. The set will be sold with a box topper in local comic book stories, and customers at Walmart and Target will be able to buy lister packs there, but they will not be able to get the box topper.
While this sounds really good on paper, Magic fans are calling attention to multiple issues with this set from the price point, the box toppers, and how the distribution hurts local shops.
I first became aware of this through a video by one of my favorite Magic Youtubers, The Professor, who runs the channel Tolarian Community College. In the video, he breaks down a lot of the major issues. I highlighy recommend watching the whole video as he goes into great detail about the various problems concerning the Ultimate Masters’ release, especially as part of a larger price issue with Magic as a whole.
To sum it up the major points, the issues are that this set is way more expensive than previous sets and that, despite the rereleases, new art (for some cards, not all) and box toppers, the set does not equal the price point that the set is priced at. At $335.76, this set is more expensive than a PS4 1TB slim console, with tax, on Amazon. It also is a huge price jump from the last set, at a nearly $100 increase. That makes this box set pretty much roughly $30 dollars less than what my weekly paycheck used to be at my retail job.
If we are going to be talking about price points for playing Magic let’s do so. I started seriously getting back into Magic the past couple of months, first through watching videos and then through building my own decks. I now have two commander decks (Angel themed red/white and Gorgon themed green/black) and about four modern decks.
Despite only seriously playing for two-ish months and getting some cards to start through events and promotional material, I have spent $254.54 on cards, and I currently have a pending cart at Card Kingdom around $200+ and that doesn’t include the cards I’ve picked up at my local comic book store that, nor the card sets I bought a couple years back when I was first trying to get into Magic. And I don’t regret any of it. Whenever I get some cards and see how it fits within my deck or just admiring the art it is a good experience.
All this to say that Magic is not a cheap game. The Command Zone, one of my favorite Magic podcast/Youtube channels, made a video where they broke down the statistics for whether more expensive decks do better in the Commander format of Magic and what they found was that “the most expensive deck in a pod wins, 29% of the time.”
And that’s just the most expensive in a four-player game where everyone has a 25% chance to win at the very start before anyone starts playing. While that’s not extreme it does make a difference. They also saw that on average winning decks cost around $568 vs losing decks $509 at an almost $60 difference.
Now there are other things that come into play when playing Magic and winning Magic: a well-constructed deck is going to be a powerhouse regardless, but if your opponent has access to expensive cards that are able to do multiple things when yours can only do one, that makes a difference in how the game will go.
I bring this up to say that Magic is not a cheap game, nor are the players against spending money to get the best deck possible, especially if they are competitive collectors or players. But gamers know the value of what they are getting and can smell a cash grab when they see it.
The box topper also doesn’t naturally increase the value because not all the box toppers are cards worthy of the extra $55 value you’d pay for it in the local comic book store, in comparison to getting the same amount of cards from Wallmart or Target. That ices out local comic book stores. Some of the cards that are box toppers aren’t expensive to get on places like Card Kingdom for 50 cents a piece.
Additionally, as The Professor points out, people have already found ways to take sealed box toppers and see through them to identify which card is inside. Therefore, secondhand sellers can sell you lower-end box toppers for a high price because of the high market value of the set.
As a fan of the Magic and a fan of gaming in general, one of the things that is always asked is how much are we, the consumer, willing to pay for something that we love. I’m not opposed to spending money on Magic cards. Hell, I’m not opposed to spending a lot of money on Magic cards. But when you buy via Card Kingdom you get to pick out the individual cards, it’s not just a set with some duds, it is a curated experience that allows you to make the best deck possible.
Plus, if you are buying common cards, you can save up and spend that money in pieces, buying $20 worth here and there when you have it. To spend $300+ on a set that is made to sell out quickly is a lot to ask from fans who already spend a lot of money on the game. Especially when some of the cards in the set might not be playable in Modern or Commander, two of the most popular formats.
At the end of the video, there is a clip of someone from Magic saying that this set “it’s a premium product, it’s not for everyone.” Which fair enough, but if you aren’t making products for the average player who wants to enjoy and play your game, then what is the point? Besides money.
There are some cards that have been spoiled that look interesting, but as the month unfolds and we get new information, it’ll be interesting to see if fans across Magic decide if this price point is worth it for them or not.
The video that announced this set has over 1.3k thumbs down, so at least right now the message is loud and clear that people are not happy.
Magic fans, let us know your thoughts.
(via YouTube, image: Screengrab)
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