The pre-releases are done (mine went horribly,) launch FNM’s are over, and it is finally time to start cracking packs of Return to Ravnica! You say “But cracking packs is the least efficient way to get the cards that you want! You should just buy singles!” I know, I know, but the thing is, I like cracking packs. When I started playing this game in Revised that was all you could do aside from trading with your friends. The stores that sold Magic cards were all comic shops and they didn’t sell singles most of the time, and the internet was brand new… it certainly didn’t have stores where you could buy cards online. All we had was cracking packs, and it has become part of this game to me. Since I returned to the game a couple years ago, for each new set release I purchase a booster box of the new set and crack some packs. Typically I will also get a fat pack and over the course of the three months until the next set, I’ll usually get a pack or two a week to crack.
There is a particular mindset that has to go into this process however. If you go into the process of opening packs, you have to be open to the possibility that you will not get the cards that you want. The odds of opening a particular mythic rare in a single pack of Return to Ravnica is approximately 120:1. Out of one hundred twenty packs, you should, on average, open one copy of the mythic rare that you are looking for. A booster box contains only thirty six packs of cards, therefore it is very unlikely that you will open that one card, and if it is the one card you want, then you may as well just buy that card because you are likely to be disappointed. When I go to open packs, I try to take the mindset that I don’t really care which cards I get. Sure, there are cards that I would like to get, but if I don’t open them then that is ok. I find the experience to be much better than the other way because as you approach those last few packs in the box, despair is starting to set in, and it is just a miserable experience.
For my Return to Ravnica booster box, I cracked one of the four primary cards I was looking for, Vraska the Unseen. The other cards I was looking for were Niv-Mizzet, Dracogenius, Jace, Architect of Thought, and Utvara Hellkite. My friend opened the Hellkite and said he would trade it to me, so was not too worried about that one.
“Why don’t you use your booster box for drafting?” Honestly? I have a real problem with perceived ownership of things, particularly Magic cards. This is my box, and what if someone opened a money card? Even if they had paid me for the pack beforehand, I would feel horrible for not getting that pack myself. However, my friend and I have started doing Pack Wars! Pack Wars is where you and your opponent each open a booster pack, take out the land and token cards, then shuffle the pack. You draw one card per turn with no starting hand, and see if you can beat the other guy. You have infinite mana for casting any spells except “X” spells, and you can activate abilities that cost mana once per turn. Typically, whoever wins gets to keep both packs. This can get a bit awkward if you open a money card but still lose, so I’ve found that if my friend and I do this, it is better to just battle out of one box, and whoever’s box it is keeps all the cards no matter who wins. This way you get the fun of playing the game with none of the risk involved in “betting” your packs against theirs.
When we arrived to buy our boxes, the vendor that I had pre-paid for my box had not yet arrived. My friend had not pre-paid, so he went and bought his box and we retired to the gaming area to crack packs. He is generally very generous and allows others to open his packs so we got to cracking. Part way through he had the idea to start doing pack wars. We played a few rounds and it was a lot of fun. At one point I went to check on my vendor and he was there, so I picked up my box and returned to where my friend was sitting. He had finished opening his box, and we proceeded to play pack wars with almost all of my box! It was great fun, he won a bunch, I won a bunch, and in the end it was far more enjoyable than just cracking the packs regularly. The play of the day was when he played Vraska on turn one and fired off her ultimate on turn three. I had to only draw a single blocker to stay alive, but alas it was not to be.
As I typically buy my booster boxes at the Frank & Son Collectible Show, there are vendors all around who are actively buying, selling, and trading cards. The first weekend of a set’s release is the best time to sell to vendors because the format hasn’t defined what is good or bad, and certain cards (i.e. Planeswalkers and other over-valued mythics and rares) are in high demand. I will usually attempt to flip my booster box. That is, I open all the packs, find the most valuable rares and mythic rares, and sell them to the vendors with the goal of raising enough money to buy another booster box. When I arrive at the show I’ll go to each vendor and check their buy list. I find it helpful to snap a photo of the list with my phone so I can refer to it later. Then, once all the packs are open, I will check the cards against the various buy lists and then go sell the cards to the vendors that are paying the most. If I happened to open the card or cards that I really wanted in the set, then I usually won’t try to flip the box, primarily because to do so I would have to sell the very card that I wanted!
It was apparent after each of us opening our booster boxes, that my friend and I wouldn’t be able to keep the singles that we wanted AND flip into a new box, so we combined forces. I sold off some of my singles, he sold off some of his, we each threw in a few bucks, and we bought a box to split. We dug right in (this time without playing pack wars as we were both getting very hungry and needed to get out of there to get some lunch!) In the end I opened up one of the other cards I was hoping for, Niv-Mizzet, Dracogenius! He opened a second Utvara Hellkite, and so I ended up trading him a bunch of my duplicate rares for his extra hellkite. I collect dragons so I tend to trade heavily for them. I didn’t get one of the cards I wanted, Jace, Architect of Thought, but that gives me a reason to open some more packs later!
In the end we both had a great day of opening packs and playing pack wars against each other, and both of us came out of it with most of the cards that we were hoping to get, so we were both happy. After all, that’s what this game is all about right? Having fun and being happy.