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A Guide to Buying Magic Cards: Boosters, Bundles, and Boxes

Jeremy casts spells in between his careers as a chemical analyst and campus manager.

How to Buy Magic: The Gathering Cards

Developed by Richard Garfield back in 1993, Magic: The Gathering has been entertaining players for decades. Players purchase cards to form custom-made decks, creating a strategic and personalized match.

But with so many Magic products available, it can be intimidating for newer players to jump in. Where should you buy Magic cards, and are the bulk bundles worth their price? Find out as we explore the pros and cons to Magic's three b's: boosters, bundles, and box sets!

Magic booster packs

Magic booster packs

Booster Packs in Magic

Description: Individual 15-card packs (guaranteed one rare or mythic rare)

Price: $4

Advantages:

  • Availability
  • Low commitment

The classic 15-card pack can be found nearly anywhere, from local game stores to franchises like GameStop and Wal-Mart. These contain one rare/mythic rare, three uncommons, ten commons, and one other card that changes between sets.

Individual boosters work well for players who don't want to commit to bigger bundles, and they're essential to draft formats (where players build decks from new boosters rather than pre-constructed decks).

Core 2019 theme boosters

Core 2019 theme boosters

Collector and Theme Boosters in Magic

Magic now has a few alternative boosters to consider. Collector boosters are somewhat expensive, costing a bit under $20 each, but guarantee multiple rares, foils, alternate arts, and other goodies to offset their higher cost. These are fun, but their value fluctuates, heavily depending on whether you score rares or more-valuable mythic rares. Fortunately, you'll sometimes find these packs included in other deals, like as an added bonus in the Throne of Eldraine Gift Bundle.

Theme boosters are 35-card boosters designed around a certain color or color pair. You have a small chance to get an extra rare, and I appreciate their consistency, giving you cards you know will fit into your deck's color scheme. At around $7 a pop, they're a fun way to flesh out your theme, albeit with mostly commons/uncommons.

Theros Beyond Death bundle

Theros Beyond Death bundle

Booster Bundles in Magic

Description: Box containing 10 boosters and other bonuses

Price: $30-40

Advantages:

  • Lower price per booster
  • Additional items

Each Magic expansion features a booster bundle packed with several treats. The extras vary per bundle, but you'll always get the ten boosters and deck box, often alongside a d20, poster, basic lands, and/or a promo card.

If you know you want several boosters, definitely grab one of these, which should be much cheaper than buying 10 individually, especially with the added treats. Prices fluctuate, but as of this writing, you can score a Theros Beyond Death bundle for less than $35!

Midway in price between the booster and bundle are the "Deckbuilder's Toolkits", but I strongly advise spending the few extra bucks for the bundle, where you get several additional packs (which translates to more rares and thus value).

Theros Beyond Death booster box

Theros Beyond Death booster box

Booster Boxes in Magic

Description: Box containing 36 booster packs

Price: $90-100

Advantages:

  • Vastly reduced price per booster
  • Extra promo card

For hardcore players who live and breathe Magic, booster boxes come with an absurd amount of cards. Their high cost will dissuade some, but there's no denying that when you do the math, they offer the lowest cost per pack. There aren't as many extra goodies as the booster bundle, but you do get a "buy-a-box" promo card as a little thank you.

Unlike the above bundles, these aren't always available in retailers, so you might want to order one online; the current Theros bundle costs less than $95. One strategy I've found effective is to get a group of (trustworthy) friends, buy a box together, and split the contents, reaping the reduced prices without committing to the full cost.

Buying Specific Magic Cards

We've now explored Magic's three main ways of obtaining semi-random cards, but there's always another route—buying specific cards, whether from gaming stores, friends, or websites like tcgplayer. This works well when you know exactly what you want and aren't interested in extra fluff. Magic also offers prebuilt commander and planeswalker decks to consider, where you can look up the cards you'll receive ahead of time.

Each mainstream method has its advantages, but in general, the more packs you want, the more expensive the item you should get, giving you the best deal per booster. But for now, vote for your preferred product and I'll see you at our next MTG countdown!

© 2020 Jeremy Gill