Early Thoughts on Play Boosters and their possible impact.

 On October 16th 2023, players were expecting a ban announcement to shake up their formats instead we got more product.

Wizards made an announcement about their new boosters that try to blend the best of both the set boosters and draft boosters. You can see the full announcement here for the details and their intentions.

On the player's end, the reaction has been mixed, though at the time of writing it hasn't even been 24 hours yet. I saw a lot of players wanting to be negative for the sake of being negative to any action from WotC but given the track record for the past year, it isn't unjustified. Limited players are the ones most affected by this change as the distribution of rarities have been shifted to favor more rares and uncommons, while simultaneously going down to 14 (most cases 13) card packs. Though many are saying sealed is dead as a competitive format now, others are waiting until the boosters are released to pass real judgment.

For now, this is what I'm seeing for the announcement

The Good

  • More rares and uncommons
    • This is a good thing as it means cards will generally be more powerful or at least more interesting. FIRE design was an issue in constructed, but for limited the set designs have been better and have made for a more interesting environment.
    • Box Openers are looking to have a better opening experience with higher rarity meaning more hits as they are opening packs
    • For player, card acquisition should be easier with the larger amount of higher rarity cards entering the card pool.
    • Traders will/should have an easier time moving through cards if they are players as well
  • Streamlined experience
    • This was addressed in WotC's article and I think they are correct in this approach.
    • Having the three different types of boosters was confusing and one needed to go.Since draft boxes and set boxes were aimed at the same target audience, set boosters would cannibalize the market. Limited is an integral part of Magic (I mean this entire blog is primarily about cube) making it hard to get rid of the draft booster entirely.
    • This streamlines the decision making process for the consumer
    • Draftable sets/boxes have always been able to convert their boxes into a draft event, when needed allowing stores to move through product, even if the demand to open them decreases.

The Bad

  • Less Cards
    • Though it may not seem like a big deal, shifting from 15 to 14 cards means you are always opening one less card.
    • This is worse when you realize that one of the cards can be a common land or a basic land meaning you are essentially opening 13 cards per pack.
  • Price Increase
    • No one wants to pay more for a product

The Concerns

  • Limited
    • This is where I'm primarily concerned.
    •  Sealed pools will vary wildly in power level. The play experience will be more volatile with some pools having more playable rares than others.
    • Draft will be a more powerful environment, but the act of drafting will more evenly distribute the power level of the packs. I predict this will lead to a more entertaining play environment.
  • Devaluing Rarity
    • With the larger number of rares and uncommons, my concern is what will qualify as a rare and uncommon. With FIRE design, common and uncommons were the uncommons and rares of yesteryear in terms of power because they believe it facilitated a more entertaining limited environment. Will they revert back to that with the up-shift in the number of those cards compensate?
Final Thoughts

I think overall this is a step in the right direction towards streamlining the Magic experience once again. Players have been voicing discontent over the number of products released each year and this is a step in solution. Draft boosters always had the utility of being playable, regardless of EV, allowing the boxes to being opened more consistently, but at a lower volume since not everyone drafts. With the upshift in EV for them ( I see play boosters as updated draft boosters) and maybe just the fact that there is only one option now, stores can hopefully move through their allotments smoother. 

RIP Amazon dumps, but this is for the best.

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