From Outside the Game #1 -Portrait of a Pack Cracker

There is a pack of M11 sitting on the desk next to me. The one with Phylactery Lich’s artwork on it. I am going to do something to it. Something many people out there will consider wrong, even evil. I am going to crack it.

You mean you are going to open it, select one card out of it and pass it to the person next to you?

Incorrect.

Oh, so you are going to open, shuffle in some basic land and play that way?

Wrong again.

So you are going to try trade the contents up to a…

No, you are not getting it. I am not going to open it and play some sort of game with it. I am not going to trade with it. I am going to open it, see what cards are in it, then (maybe) sort them into my collection and probably forget about it.

You can’t just crack. That is wrong, very wrong.

How exactly is it wrong?

It is pointless. The chances of you making back the cost of the pack are slim to none, you need to play with it to get some EV out of it. If you need cards you are better off purchasing them as it will cost you much more to try to crack them to buy them outright.

I do not care about the EV or whatever trendy poker terms you care to thrown in to the conversation. I crack packs, I do not play with them.

Listen…

No, you listen. I have heard these arguments so many times before it drives me insane. Listen as I destroy your arguments one by one.

Yeah, the chances of hitting a money card are slim, but they are there. I enjoy the risk. I enjoy taking a chance on hitting it big or hitting utter crap. You know those coin flip cards R&D used to make that most players hated? I love those cards. I used to buy scratch tickets, but Magic cards are at least useful after. I will take the rush of the roulette wheel over the certainty of the poker table any day of the week.

Fine, what about drafting? You get the rush and get to enjoy the cards?

One major problem with drafting. None of my friends or family play Magic. Who am I going to draft with?

Surely your local shop has drafts?

As a matter of fact they do. Usually while I am working. I do not have the luxury of working Monday thru Friday, 9-5 or something like that. I can work any of the seven days of the week, starting as early as 4 in the morning, going as late as 9 at night. Hitting a draft around those hours is a little difficult. Even on the rare occurrence one is happening on a day off I have a family to consider as well. Losing 3 to 4 hours of time with them just to draft is pretty selfish, is it not? Besides, what happens if I open a Koth of the Hammer in my B/G infect deck? I have to pass an awesome card I want for a crummy common? If I take I get accused of being a “rare drafter”, if I pass it I hate myself. No thank you.

Then just buy the cards outright, rather then gamble for them.

Did you miss the part where I said I have a family? My job pays okay, but not great. There is not a lot of disposable income to go around. Any expenditures have to be okayed by wife. Have you seen the prices of some of these mythics lately? Do you know what would happen if I blew money on them?

Hey honey I want to buy some cards today.”

How much?”

$90”

On…”

A box of the newest set…”

All the bills paid, bank account in good shape?”

Yes…”

Fine.”

Compare that with…

Hey honey I want to buy some cards today.”

How much?”

$90”

On…”

A Jace, the Mindsculptor.”

Are you out of your mind? You want to blow a hundred bucks on a single card? Do you know how many repairs this house needs, our cars are due for inspection soon…”

See the difference? Although it costs the same, buying packs (or the occasional box) goes over a heck of a lot easier than purchasing singles. It is better to get some cards I may or may not want than getting no cards at all.

What about trading for the cards you need?

Not happening. First of all, I am rather shy. Going up to people I barely know to ask them to trade is rather difficult for me. I have brought my binder to the last two tournaments I have attended and not been able to muster up the courage to whip it out. Besides that everyone thinks they are Jonathan Medina all of a sudden and refuse to trade unless it is for “value”. Too much effort to wade the fertilizer and just get down to trading. No, thank you, I will stick to cracking packs.

But…

No more, it is time. Let us open this baby up and see what prize is inside of her.

You’re an inhuman monster. What makes you think it contains anything but a crap rare?

It contains a mythic or it gets the hose again. Come on, big money, no whammies, no whammies. I am popping it now.

Well, did you hit it big or what?

Silly rabbit, you do not start with the rare. What fun would that be? You take your time, go slowly, enjoy peeling back each layer. I am trying to teach you how to love this. My first card is… Foresee. Hmm, neat artwork, I may have use for this in my direct damage/counterspell deck I have been building. Next is Runeclaw Bear. I prefer the old Grizzly Bears, you?

They are the same.

You would think that. Flavor goes over your head doesn’t it? They are very different cards buddy. Next up is Quag Sickness. I love the flavor text on this one, don’t you? Wishing they had killed him, great.

Useful card in draft I guess…

Speaking of your beloved drafting up next is Doom Blade. I love this card. I think this completes my playset of those finally. Maybe I should finally build that mono-black aggro deck I have been thinking about. Or I could use this Cloud Elemental for that blue flyers deck I have been toying with. Thinking about decks is so much more fun than actually building them isn’t it?

All I am thinking is that this seems like a good limited pack that you just killed.

It is not dead. Not yet anyway. Now entering the arena, Squadron Hawk. Useless card, never going to find a deck…

Are you insane?

Never been conclusively tested either way, actually. You disagree?

That card is a tournament staple right now! Ever heard of Cawblade? Caw Go? Darkwing Duck?

I know, I know. I just like to watch that vein in your forehead throb.

Fine. What’s next?

Why? Curiosity getting the best of you? Starting to enjoy the rush? See the fun that going slowly gets you? Up now are Goblin Tunneler, never really enjoyed goblins, I prefer dwarves. Jace’s Erasure, my wife’s cousin once mentioned a mill deck he uses, wonder if he has this card in it? Plummet, I love green kill cards.

Hurry up.

Patience, young padawan. Our final common is…Tireless Missionaries. Well that last one was a dud. I hate life gain. Wonder what the uncommons have in store? Oh Cudgel Troll. I wonder if a deck with him and Thrun could work out? Hmm White Knight is next. Good card, I have a few of him from the old days.

Old days, how long have you been doing this?

Revised. I cracked dual lands and Force of Wills out of packs, buddy. Still have them, too. Never bothered to “trade them away” when the season ended. Final uncommon is Autumn’s Veil. Interesting green cards no? You probably would never even look at this card unless it was 14th pick no?

Probably. Finish it already.

Fine, I got an Island, number 235 if you are interested and a limited play tip card. Would you like it?

I have no use for tip cards.

Okay, then I guess we are done…

What about the rare?

What do you care? You hate cracking packs, don’t you? If you want a rare go buy it or trade for it.

I…I just want to know how it ends.

You’re hooked now, aren’t you? You like this. You like the idea of it. As it turns out it was Dark Tutelage. Not a great money card, but rather apropos don’t you think?

Maybe. I am just glad it is over.

Well you know, Target just got in some nice double packs with some old packs in them, we could grab one of those. How does Odyssey and Judgement sound?

We could hit a foil Entomb

Yes. Yes we could.

email me at pureval at earthlink dot net

on Twitter @pureval

A very big thanks to Don of Don’s Magic and Sundries for help with this and many other articles.

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Posted on April 4, 2011, in Articles, From Outside the Game and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 12 Comments.

  1. Interesting post. I am always arguing with my friends. They say I should quit buying packs. But I was feeling lucky last week. I decided to buy 1 pack. I got in my car, cracked the window for a breeze and opened the pack. Some decent stuff. Got to the rare… MYTHIC – Tezzeret Agent of Bolas.

    My friends all wished they had bought that pack!

  2. I heavily enjoyed this piece of writing. It was hilarious, and it was true. Granted, I’m one of those that like to do SOMETHING with my pack rather than just straight-up open it. At the very least, I like to have another pack, of any kind, so fifteen lands can be shuffled in with the face-down contents of each pack and played head-to-head against each other. Yep, one of those. But, then…

    It felt like an “experience” going through this article. By the end of it, I felt like I just did some kind of drug. Except, what I felt was the vivid description of a drug: the pack-crack.

    Encore (What pack-cracker wouldn’t say this?)!

    Cheers,

    Brad

    • Glad you enjoyed it. If the opportunity ever presented itself I would be willing to give minimaster style formats a shot, but I have not had the chance yet.

  3. I love buying boosters. There aren’t many people to play magic with around here and the excitement of opening a pack to find a planeswalker or some dumb enchantment is awesome. Yes, I just spent money and, no, I won’t make it back. I don’t care either. I want magic cards. I’m going to buy magic cards. And, guess what? These are all mine. The good, the bad, the indifferent. And who am I going to play with? My five year old daughter, that’s who. Nope, she doesn’t even have a DCI number. I know, I’m crazy.

    • I love the idea of playing Magic with your daughter. I have been slowly trying to teach my four-year old son the game. I am actually planning an article on teaching the game to kids for later on.

      • The game can get pretty complicated so we play house rules. The first one to get 20 cards onto the battlefield wins (which is usually whoever goes first.) It has been great for counting and math since multi-color cards require both (albeit quite simply). Honestly, though, the thing she enjoys most is playing pretty lands and bringing out pretty creatures. She’s attracted mainly to bright combinations of colors, so there are plenty of faeries, sprites, pegasus, etc. I also help her shuffle her deck since it’s a solid 100 card deck in pink sleeves. If I had a boy, I imagine there would be more interest in attacking and killing the opposing planeswalker. But I’m more than happy with my situation.

      • I am totally interested in tag teaming that article with you. I like that style of writing and I was considering doing something similar.

  4. I think opening a pack is the closer you can get today to the true nature of the game. We often lose sight of what this is all about. There’s a simple joy in opening a pack, anticipation for what you will find. And this is the same emotion someone felt in the nineties with is first pack. You can forgot about spoiler list, netdeck, buying singles, competitive gameplay, format and return to be a teenager who is just happy to trade with his friends and play during schooltime with whatever cards he finds.
    Yes, opening packs bring me back, I feel old now 😀

    • I can definitely see this. Who does not remember their first pack or their first rare? Dingus Egg has always held a special place in my heart because it was my first. That is the same reason I enjoy opening packs where I do not know the set at all, to try to recreate the magic.

  5. Dude, I loved this article. Exactly how I feel when I open a pack. Don’t know about you guys, but I love the smell of mint, never-before-opened cards…
    You should do this every week. Just comment on every card you get.

  6. Aha I did enjoy this article. I remember when I opened up a pack, found a Blightsteel Colossus, looked at it, giggled to myself about the flavour (I love the flavour of cards) and about how vastly overpowered it could be and then just put it into my pile of Artifact Creatures. My friend looked at me as if I threw away a baby:

    “What?”
    “You didn’t care about that Blightsteel Colossus and just put it into a pile!”
    “I know…I don’t like infect”
    “You….you don’t like infect????”
    “Nope, but hey look, I got a Go For The Throat, that can go in my Vampire Deck”
    “Why would I care about that, I have like 6 of those”
    “….Well I don’t, this is the second one I ever got”

    That was a fun moment of my time playing Magic 🙂

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