MTG Financial Fundamentals: The Myth of Pack to Power
Trading Magic cards is a practice that has been going on since their invention in 1993. When in its infancy, Magic was just as much about collecting as it was playing. Before the Pro Tour, card values were driven mostly by casual playability within localized gaming circles. This is how Craw Wurms became 1$ cards and Shivan Dragons closer to 10$. The lack of complete information, namely before internet was widely used, was a key driver of this phenomenon. As a result, trading became about the cards. I had an extra of a card I didn’t need, and so I would trade that card for something I could immediately place into my deck.
As I have discussed in previous articles, times have changed drastically. Some traders even took the practice to a whole new level. By taking a page out of Kyle MacDonald’s book, they decided they could take a single booster pack of Magic: the Gathering cards and through a serious of numerous trades, obtain a piece of the Power 9. I, too, decided to embark on this arduous journey. But 40 trades in, I’ve discovered the secret of the endeavor, and this article is inteded to reveal that secret.
Who is Kyle MacDonald?
Kyle MacDonald is known for trading a red paper clip up to a house through a series of trades. In fact, considering that even a Black Lotus is certainly not worth as much as a house, Kyle’s quest was even more challenging. However, not being restricted to Magic cards certainly helps, as in the grand view of everything, you are bound to find some people valuing things far higher than others. Arbitrage taken to the nth degree, if you will. His goal became well known, and it ended up making him a pseudo-celebrity, at least for a limited period of time.
So if Kyle was able to turn a red paper clip into a house, surely opening a pack of Magic cards and trading up for power should be possible, right? In fact, it is very possible, as a multitude of MTG traders have already done so successfully and some have even written about it. I began this very quest almost a year ago with my eyes set on a Mox. I was going to do it, through perseverance and commitment, it was within reach! But along the way, I discovered a hidden truth behind pack to power trading.
The Truth? You Can’t Handle the Truth!
Hopefully, all these allusions to a secret truth have hooked you into my article. I’ll start the revelation by sharing with you my first few trades:
So, I bought a pack of Zendikar. Here’s what I opened:
Zektar Shrine Expedition
Ok, so not too terrible, I suppose. One of the advantages of Zendikar is that I’m guaranteed that land card, at least. But I was fortunate enough to open an angel card! Alright, I can do this.
Inquisition of Kozilek
Quest for the Holy Relic
Rite of Replication
Gatekeeper of Malakir (FNM foil)
Notice something here? Would any of my well-informed readers ever consider one of these trades? Of course not. But these trades were made with friends of mine (or at least good acquaintances). They knew I embarked upon this pack to power journey, and they were willing to help. The problem is, this is how my first dozen or so trades progressed; charity after charity from people at my local game shop to help me establish a foothold. Much like Kyle’s first few trades, my first few trades were nothing but donations to help me get started.
After establishing a trade binder worth glancing at, it became more challenging. It seemed like cheating to bring up the fact that the binder they were gripping was for pack to power, because I did not want to simply receive charity along the entire way. But what is the alternative? If my trade partners are not going to knowingly give me value on a trade, it meant I would have to swindle them out of it. This can sometimes be done fairly, such as trading cards soon rotating out of standard for some newer cards, or perhaps trading standard cards for legacy staples. Other times, however, the trade is outright unfair. After all, if you agree with my previous article that Magic trading can be considered a zero-sum game, my gain is their loss. And if I am approaching power through my trades, my trade partners must certainly be moving in the opposite direction.
Recently, this has led to an internal struggle. I have enjoyed this exercise so far because it has helped me become more comfortable with trading. I’ve also picked up some stories along the way, and that has been enjoyable. Keeping an eye on the prize, it would be foolish not to continue. However, deep inside, I am conflicted. Basically, to continue this endeavor is to choose between two scenarios.
1) I continue to reveal to my trade partners that they are looking at my pack to power binder, which is nearly asking for a handout
2) I attempt to garner value out of the trade with an unwitting trade partner time after time, which is morally difficult for me.
I feel like this is little more than asking for 1$ from everyone I trade with. In fact, if I were able to garner enough support, I could probably go around telling people that I am performing a social experiment to determine who will give me free cards. Then, once I have 1000’s of free cards, I can trade them for noteworthy cards, and proceed to trade for a yacht. Often times, something gimmicky is all you need and people will reward you simply for entertaining them.
Perhaps that is what pack to power trading is: A source of entertainment. From that perspective, I must ask a question of my readers. I currently blog about my pack to power trades at www.sigscorner.blogspot.com . Are people entertained by these posts? If not, I will halt the pack to power on principle. If so, then please let me know. I have a red paper clip I’d love to trade you.