Monthly Mailbag – Changing Rarities in Booster Packs


Hi all.

A long time ago I decided to do a monthly mailbag column for my blog. It gives me a nice place to hear from you about what I should write about. Since the proverbial seal has been broken for new content with last week’s post, I’d thought I’d continue to good times and content rolling with another post. I opened up my twitter (@mtgcolorpie) for questions and one really stuck with me. Via @Urzisha:

Is the pack ratio of R/U/C an antiquated idea this point?

Now, WotC won’t ever get into collation numbers or how they do it. Magic booster packs hasn’t always been 10 Common, 3 Uncommon, 1 Rare/Mythic, 1 Basic Land and 1 Token/Ad card in a normal 15 card booster pack. Some brief history for you newer players:

2008 – Shards of Alara brought along both the Mythic rarity and the basic land in every pack replacing a common spot (There used to be 11 commons in a pack). There was much outcry (more for the mythic rarity than the new basic land slot).

2007 – 10th Edition introduced the token/ad card in every booster pack bringing the total number of cards to “16”.

2006 – Time Spiral was the first set to have your foil card take the place of a common instead of the rarity it was (Before that, if you received a foil rare, it was the only rare in your pack).

2001 – 7th, 8th and 9th Edition had a basic land instead of a common (giving us the ratio we have now of 10 commons). No one knew or cared.

1995 – Chronicles and Alliances had 8 card packs: 8 Common, 3 Uncommon and 1 Rare.

1994 – The Dark, Fallen Empires and Homelands had 8 card packs: 6 Common and 2 spots for any combination of Uncommon or Rare.

1993 – Arabian Nights and Antiquities had 8 card packs: 6 Common and 2 Uncommon (Neither set had “true” rares, but different sheets of Uncommon called U1 (“Rare”) and U2 (“Uncommon”)

Every Large set including Alpha, Legends, Ice Age and beyond has been sold in 15 card packs: 11 Common, 3 Uncommon 1 Rare until 2007.

Ignoring set/block gimmicks such as Time Spiral block’s Timeshifted cards, Innistrad’ plane’s Double Faced cards, the Master Series’ foil in every pack, the booster pack has not been changed in almost 10 years, the longest stretch of its kind. Does that mean it needs to be changed?

Well, unless a set/block has a gimmick that needs something changed for its distribution, I don’t think so. The numbers that are so ingrained into the booster packs now matter for limited, which would really change up how a set gets made. WotC knows how often cards are going to show up to help distribute the power needed to make limited be fun and eventful (save mess ups in the actual card design itself). Even if you bumped up the uncommons to 4, you would still have to alter the printing process to allow something like that. If this was an all-digital game, I think it might be something they experiment with but currently for the paper form it might be too costly without the payoff.

One of my other favorite games, The Spoils (RIP), needed to constantly change up its booster pack distribution to get more cards into player’s hands. The last few sets they ran 14 card packs with 4 uncommons and 2 rares and a promo. Yes, it is pretty cool opening up two rares and a foil rare in the same pack which is why I’m sure more causal players would want this. However the difference there is they needed to get more rare cards into the players hands because, well, they didn’t do that good of a job doing it in the first place.

As for Magic, it’s fun to change things every once in a while for a block gimmick, but I don’t feel there’s a big change that needs to happen again. The game can’t/won’t survive on the Living Card Game model where all the cards are available in a single buy pack because that would ruin Limited. If a bunch of time, dedication, and energy wasn’t focused on Limited then sure, the packs could be altered from their current condition.

The next change could be (if there is one), would be to follow the Modern Masters line of thinking and putting in a foil in every pack (raise the MSRP, but whatever).

Thanks for the question.

Two bonus things:

  1. Please read and bookmark Mark Rosewater’s latest article/data dump “Mechanical Color Pie 2017“. It has everything you need to know about what abilities fit where in the Color Pie at this time (subject to shifting in the future).
  2. I am now partnering with the awesome Original Magic Art website (Disclosure: Referral Link). You’ve seen me talk about them before with the GP Vegas Art Show and the Tokens using real artwork. Now, if you want to buy any of those tokens because you missed the Kickstarters or you want exclusive playmats of Magic art like the all new Karn Liberated playmat (Non-Referral Link), you can use the code MTGCP and receive 5% off your order. Go check them out, they’ve been great to work with.

Have any more questions that you want answered? Either ask on twitter (@mtgcolorpie) or in the comments below.

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