Magic: The Gathering Is Changing the Way It Sells Boosters Again

Magic: The Gathering Is Changing the Way It Sells Boosters Again

In 2018, Wizards of the Coast made a major change to the way Magic: The Gathering was sold when it split the then-standard booster pack of cards into two different varieties: Draft Boosters, focused on the game’s build-and-play formats, and Set Boosters, aimed at people looking to fill out collecting a set. Now, it’s going back to the drawing board on that idea again.

Announced this morning through a blog on the official Magic: The Gathering website, the first Magic set of 2024, Murders at Karlov Manor, will introduce a new kind of standard booster for the game: Play Boosters, an amalgam of the current approach to Draft and Set Boosters. Collector Boosters—pricey 12-card packs focused on providing players a higher ratio of rare and alternate art cards from a set—first introduced in 2019 will continue to co-exist alongside Play Boosters, but the current Draft/Set dichotomy will be going away.

Limited-play formats like Draft and Sealed are hugely popular in Magic—and vital for the game’s thriving competitive play community, with many events at local games stores and tournaments built around the level-playing-field formats, where players are given a certain amount of booster packs and construct a deck then and there on the fly. The introduction of Set Boosters, and the renaming of the standard booster pack as Draft Boosters, in 2018, was meant to address this: players who wanted to focus on collecting a given Magic set, and open booster packs with a wider variety of cards (and a greater chance at rare cards), could buy Set Boosters, while players who were invested in the Limited-play scene could focus on the cheaper Draft boosters, designed to support those deck-building formats.

Five years later, head designer Mark Rosewater writes in the new blog, Wizards has found that a myriad of problems has arisen from this decision. While Limited formats are really important to Magic, Set Boosters were more popular with players from a purchasing standpoint. “Set Boosters were a wild success. Players enjoyed the opportunity to get multiple rares, having a guaranteed foil slot, having an opportunity to open a card from The List [a series of cards in a set not intended for standard format play, like reprints of old cards], getting an art card, etc,” Rosewater wrote. “We’d made a booster that was more fun to open, and the audience clearly voiced they’d prefer to purchase that.”

According to Rosewater, the popularity of Set Boosters created several market issues for Magic and retailers. Retailers and markets that had to prioritize stocking Set Boosters over Draft due to their overwhelming popularity with players creating thriving local scenes through draft events like Friday Night Magic community nights, or set pre-release events—a struggle, as Set Boosters weren’t designed for Limited play. This in turn, alongside retailer and audience confusion, lead to a huge imbalance where Draft Boosters simply became too much of a risk for retailers to stock compared to the more popular Set Boosters—putting a threat to the long-term health of Limited format support, which is hugely important to Magic’s longevity. “Limited play, especially Draft, is a huge part of the Magic ecosystem… it’s an important part of in-store activity. It’s a big driver for building community. Our Prereleases use Limited play as a way for players to sample the set. It’s a key part of keeping players with the game long term. Our data shows that the longer you play, the more likely Limited is a large part of your play experience,” Rosewater continued.

“One of the key strengths of Magic is that there are many ways to enjoy it. Limited play might not be how many players interact with the game, but for the millions of players who play Limited, it’s fundamental to their enjoyment. Seeing Draft Boosters, and thus Limited play, disappear would be a big problem, for players and stores.”

The new Play Booster hopes to solve that problem, albeit with a few caveats on the surface. Play Boosters will have the same number of cards in them as current Draft Boosters do, 15 compared to the 12 of Set Boosters—but they will cost the same price as Set Boosters currently do, as they will contain a greater variety of cards, compared to the cheaper Draft Boosters. There are also changes to the overall quantity of certain guaranteed card types in each Play Booster between common, uncommon, rare, mythic rare, and alternate/variant cards—including the 15th card in every Play Booster being a “non-playable card” such as a token, play aide, ad card, or an art card. But otherwise, the new booster pack’s intent is to both provide a singular SKU for retailers and audiences to invest in, while retaining a balance between providing card packs that are interesting and exciting to open on an individual level while still supporting the Limited format scene Wizards wants to protect.

“We’ve been working very hard for years to understand the impacts the Play Booster will have on Draft, and we’ve adapted how we’re building the sets to accommodate,” Rosewater concluded. “Will there be lessons to learn as we adapt to a new system? Of course, but Magic constantly evolves, so we’re pretty good at adapting.”

Play Boosters will be introduced in February 2024 alongside the release of Murders at Karlov Manor, the 99th expansion to Magic: The Gathering.

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